civil war

Secession Theology Runs Deep in American Religious, Political History

Photo: By Júlio Reis, via Wikimedia Commons
Civil War secession map, Photo: By Júlio Reis, via Wikimedia Commons

Corruption has gone too far. The righteous must break away. Hope now rests with a holy remnant that will honor foundational texts. 

The message sounds familiar. A church schism? No, mounting calls for secession from the United States.

Since President Barack Obama won re-election, more than 750,000 Americans have petitioned the White House website to let their respective states secede, from Alaska to Iowa to Maryland and Vermont. Those leading the charge are framing it, observers say, in terms that suggest a deep-seated religious impulse for purity-through-separation is flaring up once again.

But this time, it’s playing out on a political stage.

“Today's secessionist movements are just the latest example of a long parade of breakaway groups [in American history] seeking to restore some lost ideal,” said Peter J. Thuesen, professor of religious studies at Indiana University-Purdue University Indianapolis. “The problem is that the ideal is invariably a mirage.”

Don't F— With Me!

Photo: Angry man screaming, olly / Shutterstock.com
Photo: Angry man screaming, olly / Shutterstock.com

Physical violence is what happens when the violent force of words is not enough.

It’s possible that we are just beginning to see the start of that in our world today. The words, language, and rhetoric within politics and religion is growing in intensity all the time. Insults, name-calling, and unfounded accusation are normal and even expected.

When one side is called out for their language, they simply excuse themselves, pointing out that their opponent is doing the same thing. So it goes. But what happens when the force of the rhetoric reaches its limit? Violence.

The Key Missing Feature in the New iPad3

Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images
Boy sorts through minerals looking for gold at a mine in Congo, 2006. Photo by Spencer Platt/Getty Images.



Here it is, the “resolutionary” iPad3, with breakthrough retina display, quad-core processor and 4G LTE wireless connectivity. This next-generation technology is captivating and if you’re an Apple fan, as I am, you’re going to want to trade in your iPad2 and put your name on the waiting list for the iPad3.



And yet, as a human rights activist, it gives me pause. With the innovation of the iPad 3, comes some critical missing features — including conflict free minerals from eastern Congo. To date, Apple has been a leader on this issue, but I know they can do more.

Racial Jeopardy and American Politics

Lisa Sharon Harper
Lisa Sharon Harper

During a roundtable chat with a group of emerging young evangelical leaders recently, someone posed the question: “Has America become a post racial society?”

Well, we haven’t had a race riot in a while — does that mean race isn’t relevant anymore?

A black president just gave the State of the Union Address. How about that? Does that mean America’s OK with the race thing?

Our nation is a more ethnically diverse nation than it’s ever been. Does that count for anything?

Scholars across disciplines agree that what we think of as “race” literally was invented here in the 17th century to delineate castes within a system of extreme privilege and subjugation.

So, rather than thinking about the dreaded word, “racism,” to answer the question, perhaps it would be more helpful to think about how our society has been “racialized” and then ask if such a racialization still exists or reverberates in today's American culture.

Did the Libyan Uprising Have to be Violent?

Could nonviolent resistance have succeeded in Libya? Here are four points worth considering:

1) The movement was fairly spontaneous, unlike the highly coordinated campaign in Egypt. As Peter Ackerman consistently points out, planning is an essential element to a successful nonviolent revolution. As with any battlefield, a nonviolent campaign requires extensive preparation. But reports seem to indicate that Libyans began protesting in earnest around Feburary 15th, likely inspired by events in neighboring Egypt and Tunisia. Gadhafi seemed prepared for this and immediately cracked down using overwhelming violence. By February 19th, the movement had become violent in response to these crackdowns. Four days of civil resistance doesn't give it much time to work. Egyptian pro-democracy activists struggled for years before seeing Mubarak fall. Syrian oppositionists, thousands of whom have been killed by Bashar al-Assad's regime, have toiled along for the past six months. So, we can't really say whether or not nonviolence would have worked in Libya. It never had a chance to materialize in the first place.

What About Gadhafi?

The overwhelmingly nonviolent pro-democracy revolutions in Tunisia and Egypt followed scores of successful unarmed civil insurrections over the past few decades that have brought down dictatorships from the Philippines to Serbia, from Chile to Poland, and from Bolivia to the Maldives. Nonviolent pro-democracy protests subsequently have erupted in other Arab countries as well, including Yemen, Bahrain, Morocco, and Oman.

Yet in Libya, the pro-democracy struggle deteriorated into a bloody civil war and massive Western aerial attacks. Some analysts tried to attribute this solely to the repressive and mercurial Libyan dictator Moammar Gadhafi, arguing that nonviolence “can’t work” when faced with such a ruthless tyrant.

History, however, has shown repeatedly that dictators quite willing to unleash massive violence against unarmed citizens were, nevertheless, overthrown through large-scale nonviolent action.

From the Philippines to East Germany, autocratic rulers facing nonviolent civil insurrections ordered their troops to fire on unarmed crowds, only to have the troops refuse. On Jan. 14, Tunisian dictator Zine el-Abidine Ben Ali declared a state of emergency and banned gatherings of more than three people, threatening that “arms will be used if orders of security forces are not heeded.” In response, thousands of Tunisians defied the regime, bravely marching upon the dreaded Interior Ministry, and a general strike effectively shut down the country. When the head of the armed forces informed the president that he would refuse orders to attack nonviolent protesters, Ben Ali and his family fled the country.

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