Sunday, February 16, 2020

Religious and Political Apathy

Religious apathy runs rampant in American society.  By apathy I mean the “lack of motivation to do, to complete, or accomplish anything.”  After all, why bother.  Only "Jesus saves!”  That’s the main thing for many—the saving of our own puny little souls—in order to eventually (after death) have an eternal and glorious existence.  This mentality, this apathy that permeates the churches of Christendom is a travesty of the gospel of Jesus Christ.  In this “apathy” there is no “motivation to do, to complete, or accomplish anything”—like loving our enemies, caring for our neighbors, establishing peace, speaking truth to power, battling injustice, building communities of love, caring for the planet, feeding and clothing refugees—all of which is part of the “New Age” Jesus inaugurated and asks us to follow up on.  No, we’ve watered it down.  Jesus will do it all if it needs to be done.  All we need to do is “accept him as our personal Lord and Savior” and wait for the Rapture!

Martin Luther King, Jr. following Jesus’ words  in the New Testament, said, “I must correct what might be a false impression.  I’m afraid you’ll go away misinterpreting my whole message.  I have talked about a new age which is coming into being.  I have talked about the fact that God is working in history to bring about this new age.  There is the danger, therefore, that after hearing all of this you will go away with the impression that we can go home, sit down, and do nothing, waiting for the coming of the inevitable.  You will somehow feel that this new age will roll in on the wheels of inevitability, so there is nothing to do but wait on it.  If you get that impression you are the victim of an illusion wrapped in superficiality.  We must speed up the coming of the inevitable.”  Apathy is not an option in religion. 

Political apathy runs rampant in American society and is often buttressed by religious apathy.  Religious apathy says leave it in the hands of Jesus.  Political apathy says let the elected political leaders handle it.  All we need do is vote for the right leaders, give allegiance to the flag, support our troops, and bask in “the greatest economy ever,” etc.  That’s all!  No need to make noise, to protest, to speak truth to power, to seek peace, or to battle injustice. Just vote and forget about being “motivated to do, to complete, or accomplish anything.”  Or as Mr. Trump has trumpeted:  “Just remember, what you are seeing and what you are reading is not what’s happening….”  Apathy is not an option in politics.

Thursday, February 13, 2020

Am I A Christian or Not?

Harry Emerson Fosdick wrote the following in his autobiography:  

“The fact is that so-called ‘Christianity’ at its worst has produced some of the most hideous persecutions, wars and fanaticisms in history, and that today it is sometimes bigoted, superstitious, and intolerant,” makes one wonder “How often must Jesus Christ have felt that he was not a Christian!”

Fosdick’s words have been extremely helpful to me since I first read them over fifty years ago. There have been many, many times when I have been embarrassed to be called a Christian!  There have been many, many times when I have felt that if this so-called Christianity (at its worst) is what a Christian must be, then I am not a Christian.  

Throughout its history, Christianity at its worst, through its representative churches, has often displayed monstrous ethical perversions, giving divine sanction to the evils of slavery, racial discrimination, war and religious persecution as being “the will of God.”  It has often, at its worst, fallen into a moralistic and arrogant legalism. “Christianity at its worst, has exhibited the very evils against which in the religion of his time Jesus most vigorously protested.”

Christianity at its best has sought to enhance human life rather than diminish it.  Christianity at its best has sought to dignify individual lives and to be inclusive of all humanity.  Christianity at its best seeks to be a partner in the creative love at the heart of things.  “Christianity at its best is incarnate in the personality of Jesus, and it means basic faith in God and in personality’s sacredness and possibilities, and the fundamental principle of life’s conduct which Jesus of Nazareth exhibited.” 

In the midst of a Christianity at its worst, I am not a Christian.  In the midst of a Christianity at its best, I am eager to be one.

Wednesday, February 12, 2020

You Ain't Seen Nothin' Yet

“This is completely stunning,” said CNN legal analyst Elie Honig.  “I have seen thousands of cases in my career as a federal and state prosecutor.  I have never seen anything like this. It stinks to high hell.  There are all sorts of problems here.  This is not normal.”

“Completely stunning.  Never seen anything like this.  It stinks.  There are all sorts of problems here.  This isn’t normal.”  These words were spoken by Honig after Donald Trump tweeted early Tuesday morning that he thought prosecutors were being too tough on his friend Roger Stone. After the tweet, the Department of Justice, ignoring the recommendations of its own prosecutors in the case, sought a lighter sentence.  All four prosecutors immediately withdrew from the case; one resigning from the DOJ.  Today, Trump is tweeting disparaging remarks about the prosecutors!

Stunning?  Is it anymore stunning than Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman being “escorted” from the White House?  Have we ever seen a president declare that he “certainly” expects the military to discipline Vindman—who was subpoenaed to testify in the impeachment inquiry?  Does it stink any more than Trump firing people for investigating him?  Does it stink any more than “a trial without witnesses” or the blanket rejection of congressional subpoenas?  Is this situation anymore problematic than a president making nearly 6,000 false or misleading claims in his first three years in office? Is it any more abnormal than the president calling congressional Democrats “scum,” “sleaze bags,” “horrible,” “bad,” “vicious and mean,” a “disgrace,” and “bad for our country?”

I think not.  What we are seeing now is what has been going on since the first day Donald J. Trump declared his candidacy.  Unleashed by his acquittal in the impeachment trial, there is much more to come.  You ain’t seen nothin’ yet.  

But then, maybe we don’t want to see, or maybe we are satisfied with what we see at the moment.  Just wait.  Because you ain’t seen nothin’ yet.

The bridges are crumbling.  Without bridges, we cannot
cross the chasms that divide us.

Tuesday, February 11, 2020

Today's New Religion

Evangelist Franklin Graham has called Islam a “wicked and evil” religion.”  He has said that the legalization of same-sex marriage is orchestrated by Satan.  He has attacked laws which give civil rights to transgender people.  He calls homosexuality a “sin and an abomination.”  He falsely stated that Barack Obama was “born a Muslim.  He said presidential candidate Pete Buttigieg’s homosexuality is “something to be repentant of…” His homophobic and Islamophobic comments have prompted seven venues booked for his summer UK tour to cancel his appearances.

Pastor Robert Jeffries said last week that “it’s hypocritical” for people like House Speaker Nancy Pelosi to say she prays for President Trump.  Jeffries was responding to Trump’s remarks at the National Prayer Breakfast on "Fox & Friends.”  At the Prayer Breakfast, Trump castigated his perceived opposition as “some very dishonest and corrupt people.” He said he did not “like people who use their faith as justification for doing what they know is wrong. Nor do I like people who say, ‘I pray for you,’ when they know that that’s not so.” 

Jeffries said that Trump “was completely right in what he said.”  “This president, he absolutely hates phonies; he can smell it a mile away.”  He suggested that "the Bible supports Trump’s skepticism,” quoting James 3:10:  “Out of the same mouth come praise and cursing.  My brothers and sisters this should not be.”  Jeffries supported Trump’s not loving his enemies, telling Trump “to love your enemies means to want God’s best for them, but it doesn’t mean you’re going to be unified with them.  Truth divides people.”  Jeffries criticized Mitt Romney’s vote in the Senate Impeachment trial, suggesting that Romney’s vote “seems more based on self-promotion than religious beliefs.”

This new “Trumpian Religion” with its dogmatism, biblio-idolatry, and “rightness” is dangerous, both to our democracy and to the Christian way .  It tolerates no dissent.  No differing views are allowed.  All opposition is to be vanquished.  This “religion” is not Christian and is so far removed from the teachings of Jesus as to be ludicrous. 

I am reminded of Harry Emerson Fosdick’s words,  “…but there is one thing I am sure of:  courtesy and kindliness and tolerance and humility and fairness are right.  Opinions may be mistaken; Love never is.”

The darkness shall not extinguish the light.
Truth shall prevail.

Monday, February 10, 2020

“Government” Schools?

Where did Donald John Trump’s children get their education?  Where did Betsy DeVos go to school?  Did they go to what Trump called “government schools” in his State of the Union address? “Government schools”  apparently in Trump parlance, is another term for public schools.  Donald Jr. went to Buckley and Hill School, a college preparatory boarding school.  Eric went to Trinity School in NYC and Hill School. Both Donald Jr. and Eric eventually graduated from the University of Pennsylvania’s Wharton School.  Ivanka went to Chapin School (a private school in Manhattan) and later to Choate Rosemary Hall (another private school).  She also graduated from the Wharton School.  I wonder if they had “student loans?”  By the way, Betsy DeVos was educated in Holland Christian Schools (a private school system) and graduated from Calvin College.  I wonder if she had a student loan?

Now before you jump to the conclusion that I am being partisan, please take the time to find out where President Kennedy, Carter, Bush, and Obama’s children received their education.  I’m sure they didn’t have student loans either, nor did they go to Trump’s “government schools.”

There are (as of 2019) 50.8 million Americans in public schools.  Sixty-six percent of students graduating from public colleges have student loan debt.  Seventy-five percent of those graduating from private non-profit colleges have student loan debt.  

I was educated in the public school system.  I went to a private non-profit college and had student loan debt. My children went to public schools and all three had college student loan debt.

If it were not for the so-called “government schools,” most Americans would not receive an education.  If it were not for “student loans” most Americans would not have a college education. So the question is:  Is education essential?  Or is it only for those who can afford it?

When public education first began in this country (not so very long ago) many thought education was a family’s responsibility.  Free public schooling, said some, “invaded the field of individual initiative, furnished gratuitous education to those ‘who were better suited to their station without it,’ and did not meet the nation’s real need for an adequate reserve of laborers who could very well dispense with education.”  Many then regarded public schools, to use a current phrase, as “creeping socialism.”

Franklin D. Roosevelt (a very wealthy man who went to private schools) said, “Democracy cannot succeed unless those who express their choice are prepared to choose wisely.  The real safeguard of democracy, therefore, is education.”  And I would add, particularly “Public Education!” 

Tuesday, January 28, 2020

It’s A Wonderful Life

I’m trying to keep up.  I sometimes think I am doing so.  But then there are moments when I feel like I’m being left behind.  Left behind by technology.  We needed a new TV—the old one was apparently an antique (according to my grandson) and acting up.  No problem.  I’ll get a new one.  Easier said than done.  There are so many different kinds of TVs these days with plasma display panels, digital lighting processing (DLP), liquid crystal display (LCD), organic light-emitting diode display (OLED), and quantum light-emitting diode display (QLED).  There are Smart TVs with Alexa (whoever she is) built in.  There are 4K and 8K TVs (whatever that means).  HDMI ports are important—the more the merrier.  A sound bar is a good idea.  Needless to say, I was totally lost.  Finally I admitted my ignorance and asked our son, Paul, to select a TV for me.  He did.  I bought it.  He installed it and  programmed it.  Later, our son, Luke, set up Amazon Prime for us so we can now view “free” movies.  We are enjoying our new TV.

It took me a long time to set up my cell phone in our Honda Accord so I could answer and make calls while driving (hands free).  Now, all of a sudden, the car is speaking to me, saying, “Unable to find phone history.”  It does it every time I drive the car.  I press the OK button as instructed and the car stops saying “Unable to find phone history,”and I drive on.  What to do?  Well, I guess I’ll “Google it!”  I find out that there are lots of people having this problem.  The solution:  disconnect your iPhone and then reconnect it!  I think I’ll wait for help from Paul or Luke.

My wife has a hearing problem.  The TV volume had to be turned up in order for her to hear it.  I mean really “turned up.”  Paul and Helen saved our marriage with a Christmas gift of  “TV Ears.”  What a difference those “ears” have made in our home!

Yesterday while picking up our mail I left the car running, came back out of the Post Office with a bundle of mail and drove off to our next destination.  About three miles down the road I noticed a flashing message:  “No Key…No Key…No Key.”  What on earth is going on now—first the car is telling me it can’t find my phone history and now telling me “No Key.”  About seven miles further down the road and the meaning of the message finally sunk in.  Where’s my key?  I didn’t have it.  I had left it in the mailbox at the Post Office.  I turned around, went back to the Post Office, found my keys dangling from the mailbox, and as soon as I got back in the car (still running) the “No Key” message stopped flashing.  If I had gone on to our destination—turned off the car—we would have been stuck.

Technology!  Isn’t it wonderful?

Sunday, January 26, 2020

Old Testament Stuff Today

After the Israelites settled in the land of Canaan (the “Promise Land”) and after the passing of Joshua, a tribal confederacy was established.  This confederacy was held together and led by Israel’s judges. Twelve judges are mentioned in the Old Testament book of Judges:  Othniel, Ehud, Shamgar, Deborah, Gideon, Tola, Jair, Jephthah, Ibzan, Elon, Abdon, and Samson. The First book of Samuel mentions several others:  Eli, Samuel, and Samuel’s sons, Joel and Abiah.

The role of Israel’s judges/rulers (shofet) was not restricted to just legal functions.  They were the leaders who procured the rights of the people—sometimes seen as the champion or deliverer, or mediator for the whole people.  Judges were charismatic (inspired) leaders, chosen by the twelve tribes.  

Now it is a stretch, but I’ll do the stretching anyway, to compare Israel’s tribal confederacy to our American form of government.  The judges now-a-days are our legislators, elected by the people, to be the champions, deliverers, and mediators for the whole people.  

Today, I wonder, if, like Israel of old, we have grown tired of our representatives.  We talk about the “do nothing Congress” and we decry their privileges and lengthy tenures in office.  The Israelites got tired of their judges, too.  

Israel wanted to become like the nations around them.  They wanted a king!  They wanted a centralization of power in the crown rather than relying on their representatives to get things done.  

“Then all the elders of Israel gathered together and came to Samuel at Ramah, and said to him, ‘Behold you are old and your sons do not walk in your ways; now appoint for us a king to govern us [literally: “to judge us”] like all the nations”  (I Samuel 8:4-5).

Our rejection of a representative government, of, for and by the people, which is now over two centuries old and not working as well as we think it should, is similar to that of ancient Israel’s rejection of their judges.  The judges just weren’t measuring up.  “Appoint for us a king to govern us…” Samuel warned them that a king would limit their freedom and subject them to despotic tyranny.  But the people insisted.

God is said to have spoken to Samuel in the midst of the crisis:  “Hearken to the voice of the people in all that they say to you; for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them.”

Our willingness to have a “king to govern us” (even if he claims to know more about the Middle East, more than the generals, more than our intelligence communities, and even if he claims to be the chosen one and a genius, even a stable one at that)—is a rejection of our oft-quoted mantra of “one nation under God.”

Monday, January 20, 2020

I Remember...

Do you remember?  I mean, do you really remember?  Do you remember those days of unrest, of civil disobedience, of water hoses and dogs, of jeers and beatings and murders, and churches bombed with little children inside?  Do you remember Selma, Montgomery, Birmingham, and Memphis, in the 1960’s. Do you remember the Edmond Pettus Bridge and what happened there?  John Lewis remembers!  Do we really remember the way it was back then, in 1968 for example, when Martin Luther King, Jr., whom we honor today, was despised by 75% of the people in this nation?  He was shot to death at the age of 39 that year in Memphis, Tennessee.  I remember.

Martin Luther King’s favorite hymn was “Precious Lord.”  He asked Mahalia Jackson long before he was killed if she would sing that song at his funeral.  She did…and I remember…

Precious Lord, take my hand/Lead me on, let me stand/I am tired, I am weak, I am lone/
Though the storm, though the night/Lead me on to the light/Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home.

When my way grows drear precious Lord linger near/When my light is almost gone/Hear my cry, hear my call/Hold my hand lest I fall/Take my hand precious Lord lead me home.

When the darkness appears and the night draws near/And the day is past and gone/At the river I stand/Guide my feet, hold my hand/Take my hand precious Lord, lead me home.

I remember how King often quoted James Weldon Johnson’s poem/song (the official song of the NAACP) “Lift Every Voice and Sing.”  The last stanza speaks to me tonight as I remember those yesterdays and ponder our situation in America today.  I remember… and I pray…

God of our weary years, God of our silent tears,
Thou has brought us thus far on the way; 
Thou who has by Thy might led us into the light,
Keep us forever in the path, we pray.  
Lest our feet stray from the places, our God, where we met Thee, 
Lest, our hearts drunk with the wine of the world, we forget Thee;
Shadowed beneath Thy hand, 
May we forever stand.  
True to our God, 
True to our native land.

Saturday, January 18, 2020

The Great Divorce

C. S. Lewis wrote the novel, The Great Divorce, back in 1945.  The book was based on a dream in which the author reflects on the Christian conceptions of Heaven and Hell.  In the dream the narrator finds himself in “the grey town”, where it is always raining, even indoors.  It’s a hell of a town—a kind of purgatory.  He finds a bus-stop.  There he waits in line and listens to the arguments among his fellow passengers.  Many of them quit the line in disgust before the bus arrives.  When the bus finally comes there are only a few remaining passengers who board it.  The bus flies upward.  It’s destination:  the foothills of heaven.  If you want to know the rest of the story, you’ll have to read the book for yourself.

Fifty-two years ago, The Methodist Church merged with the Evangelical United Brethren Church to become The United Methodist Church.  That was the year I became a United Methodist minister.  For all of those 52-years The “United” Methodist Church has been like “the grey town” in Lewis’ novel.  It has been raining ever since that union—as it rained before that union—and as it will be raining when that union is fractured—when the Great Divorce occurs (probably this summer).  

The Episcopal Church, the Evangelical Lutheran Churches in America, the Presbyterian Church (USA) and the American Baptist Churches (USA) have already experienced a similar divorce in their “grey towns.”  They, too, argued while waiting in line at the bus-stop, and walked away before the bus arrived.  They argued, as The United Methodist Church has been arguing, over whether or not they should be inclusive of all people, particularly LBGTQ folk and abortion (a woman’s right to choose).  Of course, the divide has been labeled a religious one, but it is also political—liberal verses conservative.

The United Methodist Church has decided it is time for a divorce, thinking this will get everybody out of the rain or out of “the grey town.”  The arguments with one another are so aggravating, so divisive, so intense, that they can’t tolerate waiting in line with each other for the bus. They walk away from one another and thus miss that bus which might take them out of “the grey town,” They want only to associate with like-minded people—people like themselves. They want no Samaritans in their midst, no Romans, no outsiders.

The Church (whatever the name given it) is supposed to be an instrument of the Gospel (not Paul’s Letters or the Old Testament, or by our political bent, but rather by the spirit of Christ).  That Gospel is meant to force us out of our individual bubbles and help us connect across all the social, political and racial barriers of our culture.  It’s the bus we are waiting for…as we sit side by side with those who are different from us in “the grey town”.  But we refuse to wait in line with those who are different.  We reject the Gospel—as people have always done.  

Monday, January 13, 2020

How Swiftly Roll the Years!

Our grandson Matt will soon celebrate his 27th birthday.  His daughter, Addison, our first great granddaughter, was born on Matt’s birthday.  Matt and I use to celebrate our birthdays together (just a week apart) when he was growing up.  He says he can always remember my age simply by adding 50 years to his own!

Where do the years go?  All those precious days—Christmases and Thanksgivings, birthdays and anniversaries—all have passed so quickly.  Every day is precious—where have all those days gone?

Once we were young.  The youthful spirit within us bursting with energy.  All the world was before us and nothing seemed too great to accomplish, no challenge or goal seemed out of reach.  Then, all at once, those days are no more, the years are gone, and there is little time remaining.  Suddenly Jesus’ words in John 9:4 make sense, “I must work, while it is day:  for the night comes.”

Precious days still dawn.  The night is not yet permanent, the nights still come and go.  My mind still works (though slowly) and my heart still beats (though not as strongly).  What must I be doing while it is day?  What work can I do?  What does an old man have to offer?  It dawns on me this morning, looking back over precious days, that I am to give that which others in their late years gave me—their CARE.  “These three things remain,” writes the Apostle Paul, “FAITH, HOPE AND LOVE (CARE).  But the greatest of these is CARE.  The word “Love” has been so abused.  The word “Care” seems a better description of what others, in their latter days, gave me.

Sheldon Silverstein wrote songs, cartoons and children’s books. He wrote “The Little Boy and the Old Man,” which I think represents the kind of real  and practical “caring” (loving) that we, in our final season,  are meant to give to those who still have precious days ahead:

Said the little boy, “Sometimes I drop my spoon.”
Said the old man, “I do that too.”
The little boy whispered, “I wet my pants.”
“I do that too,” laughed the little old man.
Said the little boy, “I often cry.”
The old man nodded, “So do I.”
“But worst of all,” said the boy, “it seems
Grown-ups don’t pay any attention to me.”
And he felt the warmth of a wrinkled old hand.
“I know what you mean,” said the little old man.

In grateful acknowledgment of Mort's "Care" for me.

Thursday, January 9, 2020

Forbidding Democracy

Forbidding democracy to do what democracy does—and what a democracy must do in order to be a democracy—seems to be a growing trend.  It began back in the days of McCarthyism, but has never really died.  We were told that Iraq had weapons of mass Destruction.  Any opposition or criticism of this falsehood or to the Iraqi War itself was labeled as unAmerican, unpatriotic, or not supporting the troops, etc.

Forbidding democracy to do what democracy does—and what a democracy must do in order to be a democracy—has expanded exponentially under the Trump Administration.  Any criticism of the State of Israel, for example, is now considered anti-Semitism and unAmerican.   Trump said in July 2019, “So sad to see Democrats sticking up for people who speak so badly of our Country and who, in addition, hate Israel with a true and unbridled passion.”  Being critical (speaking badly) of Israel or this nation, its government, its president, its congress, its policies is not unAmerican.  It is not unpatriotic.  It is an important function of a democracy!

Forbidding democracy to do what democracy does—and what a democracy must do in order to be a democracy—is evident in Trump’s constant verbiage about the media being “fake news” and “the enemy of the people.”  The media, the free press (which includes CNN, MSNBC, FOX, ABC, CBS, PBS, and all others) is the very strength and fiber (not enemy) of a democracy.  

Forbidding democracy to do what democracy does—and what a democracy must do in order to be a democracy—finally became evident to Utah’s Senator Mike Lee yesterday after being briefed about the Iran situation.  Scrambled quotes from Senator Lee include:  “probably the worst briefing…I’ve ever seen” and it was “insulting.”  “It’s un-American, it’s unconstitutional, and it’s wrong…”.  What is un-American, Mr. Lee?  What is unconstitutional?  What is wrong, Mr. Lee?  Mr. Lee responded:  “They’re (Trump Administration) in the process of telling us we need to be good little boys and girls and not debate this (Iran business) in public.  I find that absolutely insane.  I think it’s unacceptable.”  

But so many still want to forbid a democracy to do what democracy does—and what a democracy must do in order to be a democracy.  Rep. Steve Scalise says, “We all should be coming together to support our commander in chief to protect America, not debating how to limit the president’s ability to defend this country.”  Rep. Mark Meadows said, debating the war powers resolution would send the message that the killing of Soleimani was inappropriate.  “I don’t know how you side with terrorist activity,” he said.  It may well be that the killing of Soleimani was inappropriate, perhaps even illegal.  That’s not siding with the terrorists—it is being a democracy.

So here we go again—trying to forbid a democracy to do what a democracy does—and what a democracy must do in order to be a democracy.  With Senator Lee, I find that attempt to be  “absolutely insane” and I think “it’s unacceptable.”  

Tuesday, January 7, 2020


An echo is a reflection of sound that arrives with a delay after the direct sound was made.   An “echo tweet” is one that re-asserts itself after some time.  Donald J. Trump’s echo tweets, after a delay of seven or eight years are sounding again.  

Projection is often seen as dumping our own methods, our own feelings, our own ideas onto another person.  Did Mr. Trump, seven, eight, nine years ago, project on Mr. Obama what he  himself would do if he were in Obama’s shoes?

ECHO-TWEETS sounding now:

"Our president will start a war with Iran because he has absolutely no ability to negotiate.  He's weak and he's ineffective.  So the only way he figures that he's going to get reelected--and as sure as you're sitting there--is to start a war with Iran."  (Nov 16, 2011)

"In order to get elected, Obama will start a war with Iran." (Nov 29, 2011)

"Now that Obama's poll numbers are in tailspin--watch for him to launch a strike in Libya or Iran.  He is desperate." (Oct 9, 2012)

"Don't let Obama play the Iran card in order to start a war in order to get elected--be careful Republicans!" (Oct 22, 2012)

Saturday, January 4, 2020

"Thou Shalt Not..."

There are those who call themselves "Pro-life" because they are against abortion.  There are those (even those who call themselves “Pro-Life”) who support capital punishment.  There are those who support Roe v. Wade.  There are those who are against capital punishment, but for abortion or a woman’s right to choose.  There are those who are Pacifists—unwilling (on religious and/or moral grounds) to take any human life.  There are those who say “Thou shalt not…” in one situation, but not in another.  This is part of the moral complexity we face—not only in these areas of concern, but in many others.  

World War I was sparked by the “targeted killing” (assassination) of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria.  The result was a global conflict that caused the death of eight million solders and civilians. Just a few days ago, the United States “took down” a target, the commander of Iran’s security and intelligence services, Qasem Soleimani, because he was plotting “imminent and sinister attacks” on Americans.  This “targeting” is nothing new.  The US targeted Fidel Castro back in the 1960’s (but he lived to be 90 years old).  During World War II the US targeted the killing of Isoroku Yamamoto, the primary planner of the attack on Pearl Harbor.  The Phoenix Program during the Viet Nam era targeted the political leadership of the Viet Cong. From 1976 to 2001, the American norm was against targeted killing, but after 9/11, it became rather common place during the Bush and Obama Administrations, and included the killing of Osama bin Laden and Anwar Al-Awlaki (an American citizen) and his teenage son in 2011.  These “killings” were based on The Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Terrorists (AUMF), a joint resolution of both houses of Congress one week after 9/11.  The AUMF permits the President to use “all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he/she determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons.”

Vladimir Putin approved a law allowing assassinations abroad in 2006.  Israel has used assassination and targeted-killing more than any country in the West.  The murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi (allegedly by Saudi Arabia); the poisoning of Alexander Litvinenko and the attempted hit on Sergei Skripal and his daughter (allegedly by Russia) in the UK, suggest that State-sponsored assassinations and targeted-killing has become the norm rather than the exception.  Legal minds, both national and international, struggle with the legality of this new norm (meaning “something now considered typical, standard, and usual”).  Because it has become the norm—and a practice by many nation-states, including US—we tend to dismiss the morality of such acts.  The use of drones, poison, and other technological methods to kill tend to make it all so easy.  But I am uneasy with it and have been with every Administration since 9/11.  What have we become?  Is there no moral issue (yes, and a religious one, too) involved in this behavior?

"Where have all the flowers gone...when will we ever learn..."