Tuesday, May 3, 2011
Planting Seeds of Peace
Through arms sales and giveaways, its military presence and its propensity for intervention, the U.S. has for decades underwritten and encouraged violence as the mainstay of Middle East politics. Washington has talked peace while promoting war.
The struggle against terrorism will not be won through killing, no matter how many people we assassinate. It will only be won when we in the West can show genuine love, caring, and generosity toward everyone else on the planet.
Rabbi Michael Lerner
As Jesus drew near to the city of Jerusalem he wept over it saying "If you had known, even you,especially in this your day, the things that make for your peace!! But now they are hidden from your eyes.
While Americans dance for joy at the assassination of Osama bin Laden and some of our political leaders are vocally advocating the extension of American bombing in Libya, may we consider alternative voices who predictably get much less press. How about the expertise and experience of Andrew Bacevich, the West Point grad, Vietnam and Persian Gulf War vet with a PhD in Diplomatic History from Princeton...and, today, is one of the most important voices prophetically condemning American imperialism in the Middle East today? His most recent column calls for the United States government to support 3 key principles in the Arab world:
1. Support and celebrate those pursuing change through peaceful means, whatever their political agenda.
2. Condemn without exception those who resort to guns and truncheons, whether their aim is to promote change or avert it.
3. Foreswear any further use of force as an instrument of U.S. policy in the Arab world, thereby demonstrating that we are committed to fostering an approach to politics in which violence will play no part.
Bacevich explains that we should embrace the often overlooked strategy of nonviolent resistance that MLK, Gandhi and Jesus all made famous: the conviction that principled civil resistance can ultimately prevail against even sustained brutality. It's time for us to resist the counterfeit options in the "War on Terror."
*See also Micheal Lerner's response to the death of OBL at Tikkun.org.
Putting Peace Into Practice:
My friend Sheldon Good is the editor of the blog over at Menno Weekly. He recently sent some specific examples of what some Mennonite churches are creatively doing to peacefully confront a violent world in the name of Jesus:
A men’s group from Infinity Mennonite Church in Harlem (New York City) leads a morning prayer walk each week. Since they started, no one has died from gun violence in their neighborhood.
More than fifteen households from Mennonite congregations in Harrisonburg, Virginia pay a voluntary tax on their gasoline consumption. They pool this money and use it to support peace and environmental causes. This effort has inspired similar groups in Indiana and California.
Lawrence Hart, Cheyenne peace chief and Mennonite pastor, leads in the effort to repatriate and bury with dignity the remains of Native American people.
When a young man who had grown up in a Mennonite congregation in Indiana decided to enlist in the Army, the congregation told him: We have a lot more to say, but one thing we want to tell you is: Don’t kill anybody. We love you and we will pray for you.
When President Obama sent 30,000 additional troops to Afghanistan, the Albuquerque Mennonite Church took out an ad in the local newspaper with the headline: The nation whose God is war will know no peace.
In recent years, several congregations have joined Mennonite Church USA conferences as a whole congregation because they are drawn to church which worships a peacemaking and enemy-loving Jesus.
Philadelphia area Mennonites helped form a large ecumenical coalition to challenge and shutdown a large gun shop which refused to sign a code of conduct to prevent guns from reaching the streets illegally.
Mennonites in Kansas have worked with others for several years to abolish the death penalty in that state.