Posted by: Mark Nielsen | March 8, 2010

A Moderate pushed to immoderate ideas: Chris Hedges

For burning down, or keeping warm?

 “We carry the fire.” – The Boy, in Cormac McCarthy’s The Road

I’m not entirely sure I stand behind all of what liberal Christian reporter Chris Hedges wrote today in his weekly column at But it sure sparks some fire in my belly to figure out where I stand, and to start doing something more. Maybe because I was face to face with about 80 convicts at Stateville prison handing out bibles Saturday, where I caught a glimpse of what the Spirit does when we give Him/Her space and time.

Hedges has been a well-known hard news correspondent in the Middle East, among other things, and I respect much of what he’s written and said in the past. He’s level-headed, honest, bold yet reasonable.

But today he’s saying that certain things are “inevitable”. Maybe out of frustration with the slow pace of acheiving economic and moral justice, or with not knowing what God’s Big Plan is for the U.S. and the Western powers in this century. Not that I don’t often feel his same anger and sense of futility. I’m sure many things ARE inevitable. I just won’t claim to know what they are.

Yes, the destructive fires –figurative and literal– seem pretty bad right now. As my pal Ric said regarding the Hedges column, if it’s not the conservative Tea Party people getting scared, then it’s the far left cutting off their nose to spite their face. But nothing is over until the Fat Man sings, right? Or not. You decide.

As for me, I’ll  err on the side of a more cautious hope. Plus it ain’t so easy to be a revolutionary when I got a seven-year-old kid, and my wife the teacher works for one of the same govermental institutions that he’s advocating dissembling. Or maybe I’m just wussing out…

To discuss Hedges’ venting, I’ll quote him below, plus a few other famous authorities on the subjects of hope, and rebellion, and let you make up your own mind. Other than the Emily Dickinson excerpt and the scripture quote at the bottom, the rest of the quotes in the middle are lifted directly from the Hedges column.

Emily Dickinson wrote:

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,


Augustine wrote, hope has two beautiful daughters, anger and courage—anger at the way things are and the courage to see that they do not remain the way they are. The rebel is aware that virtue is not rewarded. The act of rebellion defines itself.”


“You do not become a ‘dissident’ just because you decide one day to take up this most unusual career,” Vaclav Havel  [playwright/eventual Czech president] said when he battled the communist regime in Czechoslovakia. “You are thrown into it by your personal sense of responsibility, combined with a complex set of external circumstances. You are cast out of the existing structures and placed in a position of conflict with them. It begins as an attempt to do your work well, and ends with being branded an enemy of society. … The dissident does not operate in the realm of genuine power at all. He is not seeking power. He has no desire for office and does not gather votes. He does not attempt to charm the public. He offers nothing and promises nothing. He can offer, if anything, only his own skin—and he offers it solely because he has no other way of affirming the truth he stands for. His actions simply articulate his dignity as a citizen, regardless of the cost.” [bold accent mine]


Chris Hedges: “Rebellion allows us to be free and independent human beings, but rebellion also chips away, however imperceptibly, at the edifice of the oppressor and sustains the dim flames of hope and love. And in moments of profound human despair these flames are never insignificant. They keep alive the capacity to be human. We must become, as Camus said, so absolutely free that “existence is an act of rebellion.” Those who do not rebel in our age of totalitarian capitalism and who convince themselves that there is no alternative to collaboration are complicit in their own enslavement. They commit spiritual and moral suicide.” [bold accent mine]


The last thing I have to add is what Paul the Apostle himself said about slavery, rebellion, faith, and the fact that “this world is not our home”. Again, I’m enough of a rebel (postmodernist, liberal, concerned with human rights, etc.) to say I’m pretty sure I don’t even agree with Paul on this. But Paul did write it, and it’s what Hedges’ column made me think of:

  • Ephesians 6:5
    Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ.   Ephesians 6:4-6 (in Context)
  • Ephesians 6:9
    And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.
    Ephesians 6:8-10 ,  Ephesians 6 (Whole Chapter)

    Who knows?

    What I do believe is this: whenever it happens, the revolution WILL be televised.


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