If this is indeed a spiritual war, as I believe it is — not Christianity vs. Islam — but the way of peace vs. the way of violence, it must be fought, and may only be won, with spiritual “weapons:” prayer, steady resolve, unflagging attempts at reconciliation, refusal to let fear or grief, as real as they may be, diminish our hope or our joy. We will win, the earth will win, not by annihilating the enemy, but by loving the enemy, not by making war, but by making something beautiful of our selves and our world.
Answering violence with violence may make small gains and win some short-term sense of security, but in the long run, this security is illusory, and the only winner is violence itself and all of us are the losers.
Is this way expedient? Does it pass the common sense test? No … but common sense and expediency are never the arbiters of what is right. Let’s not be stronger, but wiser … and better.
Conflict and community are not mutually exclusive. Violence and community are mutually exclusive.
Rachel Simons is a member of a Word Made Flesh team serving God by working with children in Moldova. In her May 2102 newsletter, she suggests that conflict is in fact “a starting point for community, rather than the ingredient that destroys it,” quoting an excerpt from a blog written by psychologist, Kelly Flanagan:
I think we assume communities are comprised of like-minded people, so we believe in order to preserve community — a marriage, a friendship, a collegiality, a church — we must be like putty, changing our beliefs to match the beliefs of others, or conversely, convincing everyone to believe what we believe. But perhaps an authentic community is a group of people with a vast array of opinions and differences that range from semantics to fundamental incompatibilities in worldview. Yet they are a people commmited to living in the tension, refusing the tempation to do violence to the other’s philosophy or worldview. They have decided they will value people and the stories those people are telling, above feeling perfectly at ease, or right, or validated.
We need to hear such words in a world where we so easily divide into camps and where hostility has become the norm in any kind of dialogue between camps. We must choose another way. We must live another way.
We live with each other, refusing to do violence to each other. We choose to value people, to value each other’s stories, not at the expense of our own stories, but alongside our own stories. We are validated not by common consent, but by Christ. Christ brings us together. Christ holds us together. Nothing else. Nothing else can!
In an opinion released on Wednesday, United States Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens wrote:
I have relied on my own experience in reaching the conclusion that the imposition of the death penalty represents “the pointless and needless extinction of life with only marginal contributions to any discernible social or public purposes. A penalty with such negligible returns to the state (is) patently excessive and cruel and unusual punishment violative of the Eighth Amendment.”
Absolutely right …
It is difficult for me to discern even a “marginal” contribution to the public good. What does the death penalty accomplish, except to satisfy an unholy desire for retribution or revenge? It does not make people better or society safer. On the contrary, it reinforces a culture of violence and encourages the least helpful — and the least noble — impulses in a victimized society.
As a nation that proclaims itself a defender of liberty and human rights, it would only be right for us to lead the rest of the world toward the total abolition of the death penalty, but we aren’t. We aren’t leading. We’re not even following.
I finished this book during our summer vacation in Maine … and left it with my mother who wanted to read it too!
It is a classic and faithful retelling by Mari Sandoz of the story of Crazy Horse, the warrior who bested Custer at Little Big Horn. Her account, originally published in 1942, is based on her extensive research including interviews with many of the tale’s principal characters, people who knew Crazy Horse and had experienced the events of his life firsthand.
Her book provides a fascinating insight into the daily lives and joys and struggles and hopes of the Lakotas; a sobering exposure to the violence of the times, among the Native Americans, and between Native Americans and whites; and a depressing revelation of our own (the whites’) record on this continent, a record of greed and inhumanity and broken promises.
For more updated favorites of mine — books and music and movies — go to my Recommendations page.
Along with thousands of United Church of Christ members and supporters, I call for an end to the war in Iraq, an end to our reliance on violence as the first, rather than the last resort, an end to the arrogant unilateralism of preemptive war.
I call for the humility and courage to acknowledge failure and error, to accept the futility of our current path, and I cry out for the creativity to seek new paths of peacemaking in the Middle East, through regional engagement and true multinational policing.
I call for acknowledgement of our responsibility for the destruction caused by sanctions and war and a beginning to rebuild trust in the Middle East and around the world.
I call for repentance in our nation and for the recognition in our churches that security is found in submitting to Christ, not by dominating others.
I will join protest to prayer, support ministries of compassion for victims here and in the Middle East, cast off the fear that has made all of us accept the way of violence and return again to the way of Jesus. Thus may bloodshed end and cries be transformed to the harmonies of justice and the melodies of peace. For this I yearn, for this I pray, and toward this end I rededicate myself as a child of a loving God who gives “light to those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
To add your name to the petition, go to: Call for an End to the Bloodshed: Sign the Petition to End the Iraq War