Every once in a while, I read something that reminds me that great nations are not necessarily large (they just have to be where I was born!). By yesterday, one of every hundred Norwegians had signed up to participate in Norwegian Church Aid's Lenten campaign against human trafficking, raising hopes that last year's record of NOK 25 million, US$ 4.11 million, to the church's annual Lenten campaign will be exceeded.
Speaking of waving the flag, am I the only one who wonders why the U.S. military really sends advisors and trainers out to countries such as the Philippines and Indonesia? How can it be that the USA is always in a position to tell others how to run their militaries and military operations? In countries such as the Philippines and Indonesia, don't the local armies have far more locally relevant experience than our military would have? Why aren't they coming to help with training at the Pentagon instead of the other way around?
If you accept military and great-power logic, of course, these questions are just plain silly. Joint operations reinforce the relationships between empire and client (or candidate client). They provide local facilities for U.S. forces. (As Admiral Blair candidly reminded a reporter once, "As a military commander you can never have enough places for your airplanes to land and your ships to pull in, so in this area certainly more is better.") There are mixed agendas, some not entirely bad: By training host forces to be kinder and gentler and to resist corruption, the U.S. "experts" can hasten the day when Congress will lift restrictions originally caused by human rights violations. In the meantime, supplies and equipment can be transferred that might otherwise violate those restrictions.
What troubles me is that the U.S. media seem so ready to report blandly that these visitors are "experts" and "trainers"-- reinforcing the myth that Americans always know better, and undermining any kind of conversation about our imperial role in the world.
The Lamb's War just lost a good partisan from our earthly company. Theologian Stan Gretz died this past weekend after a sudden brain hemorrhage, according to his Web site. That same site has a number of tributes (including one from Brian McLaren) and a guest book. As John Witvliet (Calvin Institute for Christian Worship) says, "Stan was just here for the Symposium in January -- young, vibrant, full of life, and probably ready to write about 4 more books. It's quite hard to believe."
A recent article by Michael Plekon on the Jesus Prayer, which is on the Orthodox Peace Fellowship site, Incommunion.org, mentions one of the lesser-known spiritual giants of the 20th century, Mother Maria Skobtsova (Liza Pilenko), who was a theological and spiritual writer, a martyr to Nazi cruelty, and a continuing influence in and beyond Eastern Orthodoxy. Alexander Men' included a beautiful article about her in his series of lectures, collected posthumously in the volume Russian Religious Philosophy. I recommend this Web tribute to Mother Maria, and its links page.