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a safer world

a safer world

“The United States must greatly strengthen and expand its nuclear capability until such time as the world comes to its senses regarding nukes.”
(Donald Trump in a Dec. 22, 2016 tweet)

This seems to me to be akin to saying: “We must pour more gasoline on the fire that threatens to consume us all until the world learns how to put out fires.” You don’t make the world a safer place by making it more dangerous. You don’t protect the people — your own people or anybody else — by exposing them to greater risk.

“I am the first one that would like to see nobody have nukes, but we’re never going to fall behind any country even if it’s a friendly country. We’re never going to fall behind on nuclear power.”
(Donald Trump in a February 23, 2017 interview)

Again, the statement is self-defeating. If it is a inviolable maxim that “we’re never going to fall behind,” then the wish “to see nobody have nukes” is an empty and meaningless and disingenuous desire. Peace, real peace, always requires sacrifice. Jesus showed the way. The unwillingness to sacrifice, the unwillingness to love an enemy — where love means the readiness to trust, or even the readiness to risk betrayed trust for the possibility of a better end for both you and your enemy — that unwillingness guarantees perpetual mistrust, perpetual conflict, the certainty of death.

Were it not for Jesus, that would be our destiny, the destiny of all of us, the destiny of the human race — certain death. But Jesus lives and we live, to live for Jesus, by choosing his way. If the world has hope, this is it: that we will choose another way, not the way of Mutual Assured Destruction (MADness!), but the way of disarming, disarming both our arsenals and our hatreds.

No path to peace can work unless it is a path we all walk together. “Never going to fall behind” is not that path, because if we all walk it ……

everyone loves a parade

everyone loves a parade

Last Friday evening, I rode in a parade through the streets of downtown Waterloo. I saw some of you along the route: Lee Jensen and all the Prescotts, Kurt Kaliban, and Grant and Klara Hornung. It was a beautiful early summer evening, a great night for a parade.

It was, of course, the My Waterloo Days parade. I rode in a black Toyota convertible with Frieda and Anna Mae Weems, invited to join them as a board member of the Cedar Valley Civil Rights Peace Walk Memorial Committee. This committee exists to promote the development of a Peace Walk memorial to Martin Luther King, Jr. in Washington Park, to commemorate Dr. King’s visit to Waterloo in 1959 and to serve as a symbol of our community’s commitment to peace in the midst of an often fragmented and divisive society.

Thousands of Waterloo’s residents lined the streets of the parade route, watching and waving and cheering, and it was a thrill for us in the car, having the advantage of moving among all of them, to appreciate the scope and diversity of the crowd. We have a beautiful city! We are an emblem, a case in point, of the melting pot that is our nation. The parade brought together, side-by-side, rich and poor, mayors and street people, young children and old men, African-Americans and Bosnians and Africans and Hispanics and European-Americans. For a few moments, we existed, not in our isolated and separated neighborhoods and working places, but together, all of us sharing a parade, all of us sharing this beautiful summer evening.

It was a glimpse of what we are, as a community, as a people, a glimpse that convinces me all the more of the appropriate purpose of a memorial, a peace memorial to Martin Luther King, and of the honor it would be to have it here, in our neighborhood. Don Damon said he saw me that night in a TV report about the parade. He scolded me because I wasn’t smiling. Sorry, Don! But I am smiling now as I think about that parade and about all the people, all God’s beautiful children, I saw along the way …

i applaud jimmy carter

i applaud jimmy carter

I applaud Jimmy Carter for his courage, for engaging the leadership of Hamas in dialogue, for searching out any avenues for moving the peace process forward.

He has been criticized for meeting at all with Khalid Meshaal, by both the Bush administration and the Democratic presidential candidates. Dialogue should be absolutely contingent, they argue, on Hamas’ recognition of Israel and renunciation of violence. But it seems to me if the goal of a peace process is made a precondition to dialogue, then the process will surely go where it has always gone … nowhere.

Start talking! Explore options! Get the people who have a stake in the process — all the people who have a stake in the process — to start talking … and listening. The alternative is to draw lines in the sand (on both sides) and stake out intransigent positions (on both sides) and continue to be mired in the cycle of violence and misery that has plagued the peoples who live on this land for generation after generation after generation.

peace on earth

peace on earth

Rachel SimonsRachel Simons lives in Galati, Romania, a field worker with Word Made Flesh, an Christian organization committed to “serving Jesus among the poorest of the poor.” She works with Galati’s street children, providing them educational and recreational and spiritual programs, and interacting with them on a daily basis in their own context on the streets.

The following is taken from one of her recent prayer letters:

… around the holidays I constantly run into children begging outside of restaurants, shopping malls, supermarkets and at stop-lights. They know that people tend to give more in December, so they bear the cold, stomp their feet to keep from freezing, and stand for hours outside of places that attract shoppers.

The weight of poverty is felt so deeply this time of year, and the lines are drawn between those who can shop and those who are left on the margins, outside the window looking in. Yesterday as I waited at the bus stop in below freezing weather, I watched some children I know doing their dance outside the pastry shop door … dancing to keep their feet from freezing. One of the boys had courage to step inside the door for a few brief moments of warmth before getting scolded to “keep out!” … Please pray for those who are marginalized and left out. Pray for God’s kingdom of peace and equity to come on earth as it is in heaven.

When people like Rachel have a heart for the “poorest of the poor,” not just generally, but for particular children and women and men they know by name — when they see them and love them and pray for them and choose to be with them — then God’s peace has already come on earth as it is in heaven. Jesus is indeed among us!

To learn more about Rachel’s ministry in Galati and about the global ministries of Word Made Flesh, check out the Word Made Flesh website.

an easter prayer

an easter prayer

Wow! That was my reaction on reading this Easter letter written by the chair of our congregation’s board of deacons. I knew immediately I had to share it with all of you. Hear his prayer … and, if you will, make it your own!

“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of laborers, the genius of scientists, the hope of its children.” Dwight D. Eisenhower, five-star general and the thirty-fourth president of the United States.

Religious people seldom have difficulty finding a scriptural basis for engaging in conflict. The Old Testament is a history of nations in conflict, and God was on the side of the faithful. The lesson of our Savior, however, is to bridge differences, to trample prejudices, and to bury animosities. To the surprise of most everyone, Jesus came not to lead his people in war, but as the Prince of Peace. Jesus died on a cross, not to defeat the Romans, but to bring the Kingdom of God.

As spring awakens the earth, let us be prayful and courageous. Let us pray that our eyes be opened. Let us see the world as it is and as it yearns to be. Let us pray for understanding, reconciliation, and the end of animosities, some of which have lasted for hundreds of years. Let us pray for ourselves. Let us pray for our neighbors and our enemies. Let us temper our passions and tend to the patient labors of peace.

on the subject of the war in iraq

on the subject of the war in iraq

I reprint for you here an excerpt of the remarks Jim Wallis will make at a Christian peace rally to be held this evening in Washingon, D.C. His words are powerful and passionate and perceptive and faithful to the gospel of Jesus. As Christians, we must discern and root out the fear in our own hearts and minds, let it be rooted out as the love of God fills us more and more. As Christians, we take no sides, nor enlist God to defend “our side,” but do our best to put ourselves on God’s side …

For all of us here tonight, the war in Iraq has become a matter of faith.

By our deepest convictions about Christian standards and teaching, the war in Iraq was not just a well-intended mistake or only mismanaged. THIS WAR, FROM A CHRISTIAN POINT OF VIEW, IS MORALLY WRONG – AND WAS FROM THE VERY START. It cannot be justified with either the teachings of Jesus Christ OR the criteria of St. Augustine’s just war. It simply doesn’t pass either test and did not from its beginning. This war is not just an offense against the young Americans who have made the ultimate sacrifice or to the Iraqis who have paid such a horrible price. This war is not only an offense to the poor at home and around the world who have paid the price of misdirected resources and priorities. This war is also an offense against God.

And so we are here tonight, very simply and resolutely, to begin to end the war in Iraq. But not by anger, though we are angry, and not just by politics, though it will take political courage. But by faith, because we are people of faith.

This service and procession are not just another political protest but an act of faith, an act of prayer, an act of nonviolent witness. Politics led us into this war, and politics is unlikely to save us by itself. The American people have voted against the war in Iraq but political proposals keep failing, one after the other.

I believe it will take faith to end this war. It will take prayer to end it. It will take a mobilization of the faith community to end it – to change the political climate, to change the wind. It will take a revolution of love to end it. Because this endless war in Iraq is based ultimately on fear, and Jesus says that only perfect love will cast out fear.

So tonight we say, as people of faith, as followers of Jesus, that the deep fear that has paralyzed the conscience of this nation, that has caused us to become the kind of people that we are not called to be, that has allowed us to tolerate violations of our most basic values, and that has perpetuated an endless cycle of violence and counter-violence must be exorcised as the demon it is – THIS FEAR MUST BE CAST OUT!

And to cast out that fear, we must act in faith, in prayer, in love, and in hope – so we might help to heal the fears that keep this war going. Tonight we march not in belligerence, or to attack individuals – even those leaders directly responsible for the war – or to use human suffering for partisan political purposes. Rather, we process to the White House tonight as an act of faith, believing that only faith can save us now.

a better way to deal with iran

a better way to deal with iran

From a piece in The Washington Post by Bill Richardson entitled: Diplomacy, Not War, With Iran

Saber-rattling is not a good way to get the Iranians to cooperate. But it is a good way to start a new war – a war that would be a disaster for the Middle East, for the United States and for the world. A war that, furthermore, would destroy what little remains of U.S. credibility in the community of nations.

A better approach would be for the United States to engage directly with the Iranians and to lead a global diplomatic offensive to prevent them from building nuclear weapons. We need tough, direct negotiations, not just with Iran but also with our allies, especially Russia, to get them to support us in presenting Iran with credible carrots and sticks.

No nation has ever been forced to renounce nuclear weapons, but many have chosen to do so. The Iranians will not end their nuclear program because we threaten them and call them names. They will renounce nukes because we convince them that they will be safer and more prosperous if they do that than if they don’t. This feat will take more than threats and insults. It will take skillful American diplomatic leadership.

May we prove as skillful and persistent and dedicated in making peace as in making war!

I am encouraged by the opportunities presented by the regional conference called by the Iraqi leadership for March 10. The Bush administration is doing its best to minimize expectations for the conference and to make it clear that it is not changing its position on Iran, but it is a start. It is something new. It is hopeful … to get representatives from Iraq and the United States and Great Britain and Iran and Syria in the same room at the same time and talking with each other!

Let’s pray. Let’s pray for the unexpected, for steps — even the smallest of steps — toward defusing the war of threat and suspicion and pride between the leaders of our nation and of Iran before it becomes a war of bombs and death, and before the world becomes all the more terrifying a place for all of us.

the opposite of peace …

the opposite of peace …

I think the opposite of hope is not despair, but resignation.
no hope, just emptiness, care-lessness …

I think the opposite of love is not hatred, but apathy.
no love, just indifference, care-lessness …

Could it be that the opposite of peace is not conflict, but contentment?
no longing for peace, just settling for the status quo, care-lessness?