The Fourth of July in Sri Lanka

The week leading to the birthday celebration of the United States tends to be the biggest for my good blogger friends. Kurt Willems and Carson Clark and other moderate-to-progressive (for America, at least) Evangelical writers tend to generate a lot of heat for being Debby Downers while every body else is blowing crap up and singing “God Bless Amurika For Being the God-Blessingest-Country-Evah!!!” The genius in their writing is that they are Americans who belong to a tradition that often confuses America with God and who critique America as not being God nor Godly.

But my favorite Fourth-of-July post this year did not come from an American. In fact, I’m pretty sure it was not meant as a Fourth-of-July post. It just happened to be released on that date, and simultaneously speaking of the need for democracy, action, and liberty.

But not in the sense that those words have been co-opted to mean what they don’t mean. Sri Lankan Vinoth Ramachandra is speaking of the need for the oppressed to rise with the oppressors and shake off the bounds of our oppression.

The gods of “ limitless growth” and “consumption” brook no rivals. For all the posturing of Western governments on human rights and human dignity, we know how deeply they have become indebted to repressive political regimes such as the Chinese and how deeply enmeshed they are in exploitative financial systems from which they cannot extricate themselves, even if they wished to. Like the client-kings of Rome, depicted in the Book of Revelation, Western governments have capitulated to the Beast and do his bidding (while pretending to be politically sovereign)…

If Greek coffers are empty, it is not because of social benefits given to the sick and the poor; but, rather, the irresponsibility of Greek business corporations who hid their profits in off-shore tax havens. Rich Greeks, with the blessing of their politicians, enjoyed public services while not paying for them. (And the Greek Orthodox Church, owner of vast assets, has also been exempt from taxation). But it is the middle-and working classes who are now being forced to practice “austerity” to rescue Greece from bankruptcy. Moreover, Greece is being charged interest higher than the eurozone rate. Like global warming and subprime mortgages, it is the poor who forced to pay for the sins of the rich.

Reforms in the financial sector, whether in the US or Europe, are purely cosmetic. None of the institutions and individuals who were responsible for the foreclosures of peoples’ homes have been brought before courts of law. Banks seem to be exempt from the bankruptcy procedures that apply to ordinary people and small businesses.

All this speaks of political failure. The racists, the corrupt, and the mediocre have taken over parliamentary assemblies. Even highly intelligent and moral leaders like Barack Obama have their wings clipped by financial elites. Politics in Canada and Italy is no different from India or Thailand. Given these failures of governments all over the world, isn’t it time for more of us to be get out on the streets like the courageous men and women in Athens, Damascus and Bahrain? Direct democracy is when the people themselves directly claim the right to decide the laws and policies that will shape their collective life. Their chosen representatives have betrayed them in favour of unelected business and banking tycoons.

I’m of the opinion that international Christian voices need to be listened to in the churches in the States. The very voices that can speak directly, authoritatively, and clearly about hard truths that those of us in the US – even those of us who try to speak up for the developing world – cannot quite fathom or imagine.

This is the voice that your local pastor needs to hear.


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