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Swords into Plowshares is the blog of the Peacemaking Program and the Presbyterian Ministry at the United Nations of the Presbyterian Mission Agency of the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.).

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September 27, 2013

Season of Peace Reflection for 9/27

Amos 8:4–8

Hear this, you that trample on the needy, and bring to ruin the poor of the land, saying, “When will the new moon be over so that we may sell grain; and the sabbath, so that we may offer wheat for sale? We will make the ephah small and the shekel great, and practice deceit with false balances, buying the poor for silver and the needy for a pair of sandals, and selling the sweepings of the wheat.” The LORD has sworn by the pride of Jacob: Surely I will never forget any of their deeds. Shall not the land tremble on this account, and everyone mourn who lives in it, and all of it rise like the Nile, and be tossed about and sink again, like the Nile of Egypt?

Reflection: Global economic inequality is nothing new. In 1948, George Kennan, head of the US State Department planning staff, wrote the following in a secret policy planning study:

We have about 50 percent of the world’s wealth, but only 6.3 percent of its population. . . . In this situation, we cannot fail to be the object of envy and resentment. Our real task in the coming period is to devise a pattern of relationships which will permit us to maintain this position of disparity. . . . To do so, we will have to dispense with all sentimentality and day-dreaming; and our attention will have to be concentrated everywhere on our immediate national objectives. . . . We should cease to talk about vague and . . . unreal objectives such as human rights, the raising of living standards, and democratization. The day is not far off when we are going to have to deal in straight power concepts. The less we are then hampered by idealistic slogans, the better.[1]

How do we “maintain this position of disparity”? What does it mean to “deal in straight power concepts”? Enter the military-industrial complex. Thomas L. Friedman, the foreign affairs columnist for the New York Times, explains it this way: “The hidden hand of the market will never work without a hidden fist. McDonald’s cannot flourish without McDonnell Douglas, the first designer of the F-15. And the hidden fist that keeps the world safe for Silicon Valley’s technologies to flourish is called the US Army, Air Force, Navy, and Marines Corps.”[2]

Question for discernment: Do you, in your own life, see signs of a military-industrial-congressional complex supporting our tendency to use force or threat of force?

Prayer: Prick our conscience, O God. Challenge us to consider our role in the world. How is it that we have so much when so many in the world have so little? Have we amassed our nation’s wealth at the expense of the world’s poor? If so, help us to change our ways. Help us to “live more simply, so that others may simply live.”


[1] http://digicoll.library.wisc.edu/cgi-bin/FRUS/FRUS-

[2] New York Times Magazine, March 28, 1999, 40

Categories: Peace

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