Friday, August 27, 2010

LIVING SHALOM IN A WORLD OF WAR

Church historian Timothy L. Smith wrote in 1974 of a Biblical call to holy peacemaking

Addressing a group of Wesleyan / holiness theologians and practitioners who gathered in 1974 to explore the relationship between holiness, peace and war, and reflecting on John 20:19-23, Timothy L. Smith said:

“'Peace' – 'shalom' – cannot, for us, even us who believe afresh in an imminent Second Coming, denote merely otherwordly hope in Christ’s apocalyptic settlement of the world’s strife. We recognize, rather, a responsibility to advance the alternatives to war which human beings can realistically hope for now.”

MAKING HEART PEACE POSSIBLE. “The shalom which Jesus pronounced was a promise that His grace could make them disciplined disciples, able to obey His call to personal holiness in a world of sin. His ‘peace be unto you’ was a confirmation of what He had declared on the eve of Calvary. Their hearts need not be troubled; they believed in God, they could also rely on Him. You can rest at ease, he said on that dark night of confusion and betrayal; your souls can be secure; you shall indeed live for Me and walk in the way I have charted for you.”

EMPOWERED TO BRING PEACE. “Eternal life began in a special sense for them that Easter night, in the grace of shalom, in the gift of the Holy Spirit, who would abide with them forever. Temporal holiness and everlasting salvation thereafter were two sides of the same priceless coin… The cross, and the resurrection which triumphed over it, had brought them a shalom which the world could neither give nor take away. It would heal their wearied and sin-bound spirits, and set them to bringing peace on earth and good will among men.”

WAGING WAR ON WAR. “What we set about when we began following Jesus was to become radically Christian persons linked in Christian compassion to a world of great evil… We really can’t find anything better to declare than ‘the peace of God that passeth all understanding.’ His shalom can fill those who trust in Him with the spiritual resources which will enable them to wage war on war, and provide them with weapons which by their peaceableness partakes of the nature of the kingdom for whose coming they both pray and work.”

MOVING THE WORLD. “Jesus’ words become for us who live in a war-cursed world a moral gauge of political action and conviction… We are trying by our professions of love to share with all mankind those hopes which our personal experience with Christ makes valid… The model of faithfulness, of peaceableness, of shalom, which exists within the Christian community is the ideal toward which we must try mightily to move the world.”

INFORMED BY THE ETHICS OF PEACE. “Though the disciples might not expect to see a completely peaceable society in their time – nor we in ours, so intractable are the political structures and social conventions by which men order their lives – yet, so as we are friends of Jesus, living in and caring for the world, the ethics of peace must inform our every political act and conviction.”

WAR AS EVIL. “My own existence as a person of peace, and the witness which I must bear to all mankind about spiritual as well as political shalom, depend on my rejection of war as basically evil. Being evil, it impoverishes all of a nation’s moral resources, weakens all of a people’s tendencies to gentleness, truthfulness and thoughtfulness, and frustrates the hopes which all political ideologies nurture.”

AGAINST STRIFE. “Jesus is trying to say to us that strife, considered both as the fruit of an egotistical will to power and as a customary way of securing it, is fundamentally destructive of the best which is in human beings.”

PERFECT LOVE AND WAR. This excerpt is from a rare book, Perfect Love and War, which is a compilation of articles presented at a symposium on the topic at Winona Lake, Indiana. It is a 1974 publication of Evangel Press. My thanks to Stan Ingersol for telling me about the book. Dr. Tim Smith, a church historian, taught at Johns Hopkins University and was the official historian of the Church of the Nazarene prior to his death a few years ago. I have included this excerpt, along with many others, on my website and dialogue project: Peace and Holiness – http://peaceandholiness.blogspot.com/.

Thursday, August 26, 2010

LETTER TO AN AMERICAN SOLDIER: 2003

I penned this letter to an unknown American soldier at the onset of America’s attack on Iraq

March 17, 2003

Dear Soldier,

I have wanted to write this letter to you for some time.  Frankly, I ask your forgiveness and patience: forgiveness for any uncertainty you might have felt because of my silence or ambiguity, and patience as I try to express what is in my heart.

I write to make certain you know you are valued and supported by ordinary citizens of the United States like me.  For me, that means that while I do not believe our nation’s leaders have acted in the best wisdom in this impending conflict in which your very life is on the line, I challenge you to act with utmost courage and confidence in whatever lies ahead.

If that sounds contradictory, I can only attempt to explain; ultimately, you will have to believe that I believe in, support, and pray for you.

I have come to be in my middle age what some pejoratively label a “peacenik.”  This is how I express my patriotism, my love for America.  I’ve repeatedly written to the President and my Congressional representatives, encouraging them to find any other way but war to resolve this and other crises.  I have publicly voiced my opposition to war and the threat of war as the primary strategy our Administration should take to address and reduce international terrorism.

Personally, I have felt this conflict is a fight American leadership has picked rather than one forced upon us.  All deadlines and ultimatums are of the Administration’s making, including United Nations resolutions.  All associations of Saddam Hussein and Iraq to 9/11 and recent international terrorism are our Administration’s suspect or indirect linkages.  The perception that Saddam Hussein is an immediate international threat or an immediate threat to American security is a perception of the Administration’s own making.

Rather than a war, threatened and waged relatively unilaterally by the United States, I believe the best response to international terrorism of the kind we witnessed on 9/11 is an unprecedented international police action.  While unrelenting and fierce in its shadow-piercing pursuit of terrorists and sources of terrorism, it is far different than war.  Surely, you understand the vast differences between the two.  Our President has chosen to use the methods and means of war and the threat of military action instead of a police action.  Again, this is his Administration’s choice, not an inevitability or the only reasonable option available.

Nonetheless, there you are—somewhere in the Persian Gulf, preparing for war, rehearsing the part you and your unit will play in the larger war strategy.  I pray that you, should you be called upon to engage an enemy, will find courage with care.  Please do not shrink back from your task.  Please do not go beyond it.

I pray that as you engage in war preparations or engage in conflict that you will not become possessed by war and violence.  You may choose to participate in a military force and a war chosen by our nation’s leader, but you can simultaneously resist letting the power of violence and the culture of war to pierce your soul.  I deal every day with homeless veterans in whom war and violence still rages across decades.  May you not relish your task but carry it out with responsibility and restraint, with a respect for all created life.

It is likely that I will continue to advocate for restraint and alternatives to war even after it is chosen, if indeed it is chosen.  I will speak and write openly about this.  As I do, you must be assured that I do so with a heart full of care for you and your task.  I seek not to undermine your efforts or diminish your morale, but to end the violence of war.

May you find courage and grace in your chosen duty.  And may a merciful God direct your paths safely home to your family and community.

Sincerely,

John Hay, Jr.
Indianapolis, Indiana

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

LIVE THE QUESTIONS

Rainer Maria Rilke's counsel for seekers--younger and older

“...Be patient toward all that is unsolved in your heart and try to love the questions themselves like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue.   Do not now seek the answers, which cannot be given you because you would not be able to live them.   And the point is,  to live everything.   Live the questions now.  Perhaps you will then gradually, without noticing it, live along some distant day into the answer.” from Letters to a Young Poet

Tuesday, August 24, 2010

TEILHARD DE CHARDIN ON WORK

The French theologian, anthropologist, philosopher writes of work's sacredness
 
"The closeness of our union with God is in fact determined by the exact fulfillment of the least of our tasks. God, in all that is most living and incarnate in Him, is not far away from us, altogether apart from the world we see, touch, hear, smell, and taste about us. Rather, He awaits us every instant in our action, in the work of the moment. There is a sense in which He is at the tip of my pen, my spade, my brush, my needle--of my heart and of my thought. By pressing the stroke, the line, or the stitch, on which I am engaged, to its ultimate natural finish, I shall lay hold of that last end toward which my innermost will tends." -- Teilhard de Chardin in Divine Milieu

Friday, August 20, 2010

KILLING...FOR THE LOVE OF GOD

Wendell Berry reflects on the violence of killing others as a perpetuated acceptable human value

This is one of Wendell Berry's "Sabbaths" poems in his most recent collection, "Leavings."

They gather like an ancestry
in the centuries behind us:
the killed by violence, the dead
in war, the "acceptable losses" --
killed by custom in self-defense,
by way of correction, in revenge,
for love of God, for the glory
of the world, for peace; killed
for pride, lust, envy, anger,
covetousness, gluttony, sloth,
and fun. The strewn carcasses
cease to feed even the flies,
the stench passes from them,
the earth folds in the bones
like salt in a batter.

And we have learned
nothing. "Love your enemies,
bless them that curse you,
do good to them that hate you"--
it goes on regardless, reasonably:
the always uncompleted
symmetry of just reprisal,
the angry word, the boast
of superior righteousness,
hate in Christ's name,
scorn for the dead, lies
for the honor of the nation,
centuries bloodied and dismembered
for ideas, for ideals,
for the love of God!

In the spirit of dialog, I welcome comments and/or questions. Click on "responses" below to post. They're moderated only to reduce incivility.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

After Nine Years of Militarism and War

Militarism has been tried and found sorely wanting. It's time for change

Over my lunch hour, I listened for a few minutes to "World Have Your Say," a BBC radio show that invites listeners from all over the world to call in and e-mail in about a topic of current--even breaking--interest.  The day's conversation: getting people's responses to former Prime Minister of Great Britain Tony Blair giving $7 million dollars from proceeds from his memoir to an organization that cares for soldiers maimed by war.

The responses ranged: everything from "it's guilt money" and "let him die like my son did" to "it's a wonderful gesture" and "nice, but he's not forgiven" for agreeing with then-U.S. President George W. Bush to join in the attack on Iraq.  Of course, Blair's choice to go along with GWB resulted in high casualties for British youth, widespread protest in Britain and, ultimately, cost Blair his leadership and perceived loss of integrity by millions.

So, the conversation resurfaced a range of lingering thoughts and feelings that I continue to grapple with regarding America's leaders deciding to declare war on Afghanistan and Iraq in reaction to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.  I feel like the news media, led by influences determined to obfuscate the realities of what has occurred and been left unresolved over the past nine years, has minimized or all but abandoned these stories.  Sifting through my thoughts and feelings--many of which you can track by reading the archives of this blog since 2002--I state my ongoing concerns here in a fresh way.

I am no expert. I am just a concerned citizen who opposed these wars and spoke out publicly against them before they commenced.  Every warning I uttered regarding these wars has come to pass.  I thought Barrack Obama would move to reverse Bush policies and end these wars.  Though saying he is committed to ending them, his Administration has thus far followed similar lines of justifications as GWB.  I regret this and I will continue to advocate with his Administration.

Here are ten responses to nine years of American military muscle-flexing (I could list more):

1. War and militarism was the wrong, irresponsible and ineffective reaction to the terrorist attacks on the World Trade Center.  Instead, a response of a strategic, cooperative, and unprecedented international police action would have not only prevented further attacks, but gained the understanding and support of many who now despise America. The syntax of "war" short-circuits whatever untapped, legitimate international civilian and legal possibilities that exist.

2. The policy of preemptive war, outlined by GWB before attacking Afghanistan and Iraq, is morally indefensible, a reversal of historic American and international standards, and continues to foment excuses and unethical justifications for one group or nation attacking another.  The policy needs to be soundly and utterly denounced and reversed.

3. The oft-repeated phrase "they hate our freedoms," referring to militant Muslim extremists, was wrong, misguided, misleading and incoherent jingoism.  Instead of labeling and name-calling and misidentifying sources of Islamist frustrations with the West, America's leaders could have committed to try to deeply understand--and help all American and Western interests understand--the religious roots of militant Islam, and, understanding, to have ceased unwittingly and repeatedly and often blatantly offending basic Islamist sensibilities.  We are no further down the road to understanding a decade later. Labels persist and anti-Muslim jingoism thrives.

4. Failure to deal in a timely and fair manner with the Palestinian issue fomented militant Islamic terrorism and continues to do so.  As long as Palestinians are perceived to be treated unjustly, militant extremist Islamists will have fuel and new recruits--and well beyond the Middle East region.  But, apparently, Israel seems to be no closer to acting on its promises regarding Palestine then ever.

5. If the attack on Afghanistan was unwise, America's attack on Iraq was completely unjustifiable.  The primary justifications given for attacking Iraq have proven invalid.  In fact, it has become clear that there was a coercive misuse of information and a directive use of misinformation by the Bush Administration regarding rationales for attacking Iraq.  Still, in the face of this, in the face of hundreds of thousands of casualties on every side, and in the face of Americans committing torturous atrocities in the name of freedom, no decision-maker is held accountable, no torture-memo-writer is held responsible, no official is called to justice.
6. Americans' elected leaders, by their choice to commit multiple billions of taxpayer dollars to what have become the longest wars in the nation's history, are as responsible for the fragile economic situation our government's spiraling debt is causing as anyone or anything else.  As I write, more billions of taxpayer dollars are flowing to Afghanistan and Iraq and into the profit margins of hundreds of defense contractors and the military sector.  Even as it is celebrated that "combat operations" in Iraq have ended, citizen taxpayers remain indefinitely on the hook for 50,000 troops and 50,000 contracted personnel in Iraq.  Yet, some U.S. Senators have the gall to call unemployed worker compensation extensions irresponsible?

7. This extended period of war has produced the highest suicide rates and largest number of returning American troops experiencing PTSD on record.  As American troops are still engaged in these wars and the time-frame for PTSD to fully develop and play out is still short, we may well just be experiencing the tip of this iceberg.

8. America's leaders, once vowing never to put America in the position of another Vietnam, have, in fact, done so. We are ever-so-slowly leaving Iraq, but leaving it in a most weakened and fragile and more violent state than it was when we attacked it.  We have no valid end game in Afghanistan, no end in sight, and no way to claim even a moral victory there.  Both regions are more fragile militarily, economically, and in terms of statehood than they were when America attacked them.

9. These wars were supposed to wipe out terrorists and also "dry up" the sources of terrorism. Neither has occurred.  In fact, these wars and the "war on terrorism" has produced untold numbers of new recruits to terrorism and seeded multiple new reasons and causes for it flourishing in another generation. The promises of rebuilding and compassionate assistance have paled in comparison to what was promised.  In the face of continued American drone air strikes killing Afghani and Pakistani civilians, assistance is hardly registering.

10. The past nine years of war have been disastrous at so many levels and for so many people, it is time and past time to end them without reference to "winning."  America has not won these wars. It is not winning these wars.  It will not win these wars.  Cut the losses, and abandon military involvement.  In the wake of Afghanistan and Iraq, America's leaders need a long period of reassessment regarding its integrity and international role.  Let there be an end to American war-making as a solution to problems.  Let other responsible interventions guide international policy as we move into a very changed future--a future that is changed, not because America is weaker, but because America is wiser.

Monday, August 16, 2010

GRACE IS NOT A THING

Thomas Merton reflects on something rather amazing

SPIRITUAL GASOLINE?  “The more the notion of grace is treated by us in a semimaterialistic, objectified way, the more unreal it will be.  In practice, we tend to think of grace as a kind of mysterious substance, a thing, a commodity which is furnished us by God; something like fuel for a super-natural engine.  We regard it as a kind of spiritual gasoline which we find necessary in order to make our journey to God.”

RECEIVING GOD’S OWN SELF.  “Grace is not something with which we perform good works and attain to God.  It is not a thing or a substance entirely apart from God.  It is God’s very presence and action within us.  For all practical purposes we might as well say that grace is the quality of our being that results from the sanctifying energy of God acting dynamically in our life.  That is why in the primitive Christian literature, and especially in the New Testament, we read not so much of receiving grace as of receiving the Holy Spirit: God himself.”

BEING FOUND, LOVED.  “To be perfect then is not so much a matter of seeking God with ardor and generosity, as of being found, loved, and possessed by God, in such a way that his action in us makes us completely generous and helps us transcend our limitations and react against our own weakness.  We become saints not by violently overcoming our own weakness, but by letting the Lord give us the strength and purity of his Spirit in exchange for our weakness and misery.”

  -- Thomas Merton in Life and Holiness

Sunday, August 15, 2010

SHOW ME WHO YOU ARE

A piece by Cajun poet Carol Prejean Zippert

You ain’t showed me nothing yet
When you smiling
cause the sun is shining
When you happy cause your day went right
You ain’t showed me nothing yet
When you say
you got it together
cause you know
ain’t nothing happening
And you think you free
when all you doing
is backing off
You ain’t showed me nothing yet
til you live like you believe
in somebody
other than yourself
And you struggling
to make something right
somewhere in this world
You ain’t showed me nothing yet
til you show me
who you are
by what you do

From Carol's collection I Don't Want to Be Rich, Just Able

Saturday, August 14, 2010

AUGUST

August is less about doing and more about being

Unlike June and July, August is the least intentional of summer months. Looking forward so much to summer, we schedule vacation, sign up for camps and mark outdoor events on our June and July calendars.  June and July are planned and structured.  We're determined not let summer be wasted.  We go and attend and spend and return.  We pack up and line up and take in and wade in.  Usually, come August, we've accomplished most everything on our summer checklist.

Maybe we're tired enough from doing summer by the time August rolls around that we're actually ready for being summer.  Our earnestness fades and we finally relax.  Or maybe it's August's heat that saps our strength and will to get up and go. Whatever, it just seems like by the middle of August we're in a summer state of mind.

Maybe it lasts just a few days, this balance between been there, done that and get ready for next and gotta go there.  We're between what's over and what's to come.  Returns to school and the energy of September will quickly impinge upon whatever is left of summer.  But the end of Dog Days offers a short stretch or window of some kind of grace.

The middle of August is less about intending and doing and more about being and observing.  We watch surprise lilies sprout.  We pull ripening tomatoes and pick green beans.  We listen to cicadas in the trees.  We savor a glass of iced tea.  A novel reads itself to us.  We sit in the shade and watch sprinklers water what's left of heat-scorched lawns.

We don’t leave summer completely in August, or at least it doesn’t leave us. It is in August, when the unique experiences and moments of summer begin to be numbered, that we realize that we have been blessed by summer. This is the month when we savor summer, linger with its graces. Though September is on the horizon, perhaps the best days of summer are still to come.

Thursday, August 12, 2010

THE FUTURE OF "DOING JUSTICE"

What if local Free Methodists--and other Christian communities--took "doing justice" seriously?

I posited the following 14 possibilities as the conclusion of a presentation I made before the Free Methodist Historical Society in 2006. The presentation became a chapter in the book, Soul Searching the Church. You can download a PDF version of my presentation, "To Break Every Yoke," at this link.  Reading my treatise four years later, these issues/possibilities go mostly unaddressed and unanswered among Free Methodist pastors and leaders. Still, as long as it is "today," soul searching, change and redemptive action are possible.



For the sake of possibility, let us imagine placing the doing of justice more centrally in our lives as Free Methodist believers, pastors, and congregations. What does one’s weekly devotional life include? As a pastor, what teaching priorities or investments of time do I make? As a congregation, what does our “ministry menu” or thrust of service include? Where do we begin? What are we like? In the spirit of the optimism of grace, consider the shape and indications of a Free Methodism that embraces ‘doing justice’ more centrally:

1. We stop convincing ourselves that justice issues are too messy and complicated to get involved in. We seek to fully understand the nature of particular injustices. We begin to trace their sources in irresponsible or sinful values, actions, approaches, alliances, or habits at personal, corporate, social, and/or national levels.


2. We no longer just hope somebody else is doing something about poverty or human trafficking. We identify how Free Methodists and others are engaging in both relief and redemptive counter to these injustices. We support this work financially and prayerfully. We identify corrupting activities and also commend best practices to our representative church, government, corporate, and community leaders at all levels.


3. We incorporate ‘doing justice’ into the center of our descriptions and proclamations of salvation and discipleship. We reclaim Biblical guidance regarding ‘doing justice’ and forge a fresh Free Methodist spiritual formation with this mandate and heritage at heart. We both preach grace and do justice in our evangelism and discipleship. We incorporate “justice, mercy, and truth” into our Christian education, discipleship, leadership development, worship, and group life curriculum. Justice is not something talked about one Sunday of the year; it is woven into the texture of our life together.


4. We do not accept at face-value any politically-motivated or fear-based description or solution to social problems or injustices. We exercise a deeper sense of spiritual discernment and broader sense of social responsibility than can be reduced to sound-bytes, slogans, campaigns, and election-cycle political interest action.


5. We are educated and engaged regarding what is being accomplished within the Body of Christ regarding historically-core Free Methodist concerns--poverty, human slavery, and women’s issues (for starters). We encourage involvement in local and international initiatives like the Christian Community Development Association, the Blueprint to End Homelessness, and the International Justice Mission.


6. We take a global outlook and approach to ‘doing justice.’ We move beyond Americanism for the sake of authentic Christianity and our brothers and sisters in Christ around the world. While we address specifically American justice challenges like homelessness, affordable housing, livable wages, affordable health care, and access to quality public education at all levels, we do so within a global perspective. North American and Western lifestyles and choices are linked with the prevention or propagation of global poverty, human trafficking, fair labor, women’s rights, and economic domination.


7. We openly commit to solidarity with the poor and the plight of the poorest of the poor in our society and around the world. As best we can, we look at the world through the eyes and experiences of marginalized people and groups. We no longer insulate ourselves from contact with the poor; instead we look for ways to engage the poor with meaning, linking our own lives inseparably with theirs. We visit, develop relationships, and become increasingly aware of the immediate struggles of neighbors. We give more weight to their testimonies and experiences than to politicians and news media sources. We work with neighbors to understand and address poverty.


8. As we act for relief of the poor and vulnerable, we link relief with reform and establish just structures, policies, and opportunities whenever possible. As we give ourselves to salvage lives that have been swept over the proverbial waterfall, just as readily we move expediently to address what has caused people and groups to be swept downstream in the first place. We treat symptoms and we address sources of harm. To modify a well-worn adage: give people fish, teach them how to fish, guarantee their right to fish, and do all in your power to insure that the water upstream is not being polluted so that they can actually eat and sell the fish they catch.


9. We are as redemptively involved in our communities for social reform as we are in our congregations for spiritual formation and revival. Free Methodist spiritual formation encourages active neighboring as well as service to support congregational life. Volunteers serve local justice concerns in balance with congregational outreach ministries. We see the two as complementary, not competitive or exclusionary.


10. We act as responsible investors in global market dynamics. If we invest in the stock market or benefit from stock market investments (such as through tax-sheltered retirement accounts), we do so, as much as possible, without blindly contributing to or benefiting from unjust labor or unethical business practices. We refrain from investments that promote violence, war-making, addictions, or unfair trade and labor practices. We examine local labor and market practices of companies in which we invest and call for social responsibility. When stock-market and multi-national corporate activity is identified as rapacious, it is called to accountability and change.


11. We act as responsible consumers of global products, resources, and services. We see a higher value than the lowest possible retail price tag. We challenge our habits of purchasing and consuming whenever it is known to directly or indirectly feed injustices for laborers and the poor around the world.


12. We refute violence against human beings in all its forms. We speak prophetically to militarism and the violence of unjust war, to be sure. We also reject of the language and norms of violence in our society and world. Alternatively, we engage in, pursue, and encourage methods of conflict resolution and shalom-bearing that are a positive testimony to the power of a holy God whose way is love.


13. We address justice issues in the Spirit and manner of perfect love. Even as we identify injustice, seek to relieve the oppressed, call perpetrators of injustice to accountability, and work for reform, we do so with the redemption of the perpetrating individual or organization in focus. Our very approach and spirit is the key to transformative outcomes. As one early Free Methodist put it: “to find the remedy is easy; successfully to apply it involves the principle of holiness.”


14. We show by example and precedent what is possible when people of heart-felt faith and vision creatively engage the call to ‘do justice.’ We demonstrate the promise of restorative justice initiatives. We model best practices in socially redemptive ministries and volunteer services. We are proactive instead of reactive. We exemplify to the best of our ability, acting with all the light that we currently, collectively have, the principles of the kingdom of God. We live earnestly the petition we constantly make: “Your kingdom come, Your will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Friday, August 6, 2010

WHO SPEAKS FOR GOD?

No one talks to God with any more clout than you and me

One speaks to God
and claims to derive
direction for many.

Another goes to God
and reports receiving
different guidance
for the same group.

Overseers deem to divine
unquestionable vision
for a million adherents.

Some in the faithful throng
alternatively discern
an equally valid
ancient-future way.

No one talks to God
with any more clout
than you and me.

Beware exceptional tongues--
no matter how powerful
or convincing--
that speak ex cathedra.

Thursday, August 5, 2010

FROM SELF-PITY TO SERVICE

Alan Paton's reflection on St. Francis' prayer

INSTRUMENT OF THY PEACE. While looking for another book at the Central Library in downtown Indianapolis, I came across a volume by Alan Paton, most noted as author of Cry, the Beloved Country. I've since read Instrument of Thy Peace (Seabury Press, 1968), which is a series of reflections on St. Francis of Assisi's well known prayer:

Lord, make me an instrument of thy peace:
Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
Where there is discord, harmony;
Where there is injury, pardon;
Where there is doubt, faith;
Where there is despair, hope;
Where there is darkness, light;
Where there is sadness, joy.
O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek
To be consoled as to console,
To be understood as to understand,
To be loved as to love;
For it is in giving that we receive;
It is in pard'ning that we are pardoned;
It is in dying that we are born to eternal life!

SELF-PITY COMES TO AN END. Paton writes of St. Francis' prayer: "When I pray his prayer, or even remember it, my melancholy is dispelled, my self-pity comes to an end, my faith is restored, because of this majestic conception of what the work of a disciple should be....Life is no longer nasty, mean, brutish, and short, but becomes the time that one needs to make it less nasty and mean, not only for others, but indeed also for oneself."

THROW OFF HELPLESSNESS. He goes on: "This is the only way in which a Christian can encounter hatred, injury, despair and sadness, and that is by throwing off one's helplessness and allowing oneself to be made the bearer of love, the pardoner, the bringer of hope, the comforter of those who grieve."

OPEN MY EYES AND EARS. At the end of each reflection/chapter, Paton pens a prayer. Here's a particularly poignant one:

"O Lord, open my eyes that I may see the need of others,
open my ears that I may hear their cries,
open my heart so that they need not be without succor,
let me be not afraid to defend the weak
because of the anger of the strong,
nor afraid to defend the poor
because of the anger of the rich.
Show me where love and hope and faith are needed,
and use me to bring them to those places.
And so open my eyes and my ears
that I may this coming day be able to
do some work of peace for You.
Amen."

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

HOWARD THURMAN ON HATRED

VOICE OF WISDOM. Howard Thurman is a voice of wisdom. I am always moved by his simplicity and insight. When he died in 1981, Thurman was Dean Emeritus of Marsh Chapel at Boston University, though most of his ministry was in San Francisco. He authored more than twenty books. The African-American Quaker’s work is becoming more readily available through online resources. The following meditation comes from his book, The Growing Edge (1956, Friends United Press, Richmond, Indiana) in the section titled, “Concerning Enemies.”

TAKING ROOT. “Hatred has its own morality, its own private life, its own source of nurture, its own evolution. Sometimes it begins in a quiet shimmer of resentment, just a quiver that moves through the spirit as one faces something that does violence to his inner sensibility. But it grows. It begins to establish its root system and its trunk system until it takes the form of hostility…”

REINFORCING SOURCE. “Hatred is an organism. It cannot be exorcised by generous quotation, by wooing the love of another. For hatred, again and again, in individual life and in the collective life of man, becomes one of the very terrifying sources for reinforcing and validating the personality.”
 

SOURCE OF SIGNIFICANCE. “It serves often to support the sagging self-respect that an individual has when he finds himself in an environment that is overwhelming, and against which he has no protection. He retreats within himself; burrows out a hole in which to live, and takes cover; his hatred, bitter and terrible, gives him endurance. It puts cunning in his mind. It explores hidden resources of his personality. It affirms his significance, the clues to which had been obliterated by the evil with which he was trying to cope.”

SOURCE OF SELF-RESPECT. “In this evolutionary process, hatred becomes one of the sources of our pride when all other sources have disappeared. It becomes a source of self-respect when no amount of projection can locate any other spot upon which self-respect may land and be nurtured and sustained. This is an important act in the drama of human life. What can we do about it?"

POSITIVELY DESTRUCTIVE. “There is a most important similarity between hate and love. Both are positive; but hatred is positive and destructive, while love is positive and creative…”

SEEK THE CAUSE. “One has to deal with hatred. First, I must seek to discover the kind of gentle wisdom that enables me to see my hatred in a causal perspective… The hated one is ever a victim of the predicament of his life. This does not excuse him, but it helps me understand him."

SEEING MYSELF. “Second, I recognize that I am not without guilt. The vision of God enables me to see that the roots of the hatred are in me also. When I look into the eyes of a violent man, I see myself. The moment I do this, a miracle takes place. The first fruit of hatred is isolation, and now my isolation is broken. Once more both my enemy and I stand in immediate candidacy to become members of the family."

POISONED SOUL. “Hatred is destructive but positive. If hatred finally destroys the individual, it is because an evil that operated on the outside shifts its basis of operation from outside to inside. When that happens, the soul of man is poisoned. May God have mercy on his predicament."

SOUL-SEARCHING. Thurman might have been describing the journey of a person (or a people) seeking to move beyond hatred to love in relationship to civil rights. But he might as well be talking to us today about the current focus of hatred…on an Osama bin Laden or Saddam Hussein. Does his description of the evolution of hatred apply? Are we and our leaders taking the soul-searching steps to put a face on our enemy and identify our own violence? Dare we ignore this process and simply de-face and destroy our enemies? And, in doing so, will what we hav
e done bring an end--or significant measurable reduction--to hatred and violence to ourselves or to our world?

Monday, August 2, 2010

HOPE FOR IMMIGRATION REFORM

81% of Americans support sanity and conscience as a way forward on immigration

In the midst of profound tensions and increasing media attention (“Going Rogue,” Aug 1) regarding illegal immigration, an important response of citizens to a CNN/Public Opinion Research Corporation poll has gone all but unnoticed.

In spite of widespread frustrations, the poll finds that 81% of Americans are in favor of a policy that would “allow illegal immigrants already living in the U.S. for a number of years to stay here and apply to legally remain in this country permanently if they had a job and paid back taxes.”

81% of us (that’s more than 8 in 10 of us, folks) would rather see illegal immigrants who are on the job, raising families, obeying our laws, trying to pay their way and contributing to the common good become citizens than be deported.  We’d rather have whatever back taxes are owed by illegal immigrants be paid up than see our tax money wasted on further unrealistic and costly jailings and deportations.

Regarding taxes, it is a myth that illegal immigrants pay no taxes.  In reality, most pay FICA and numerous taxes in a variety of ways (where American employers are honest). In reality, the U.S. government is making money on illegal immigrants, as are American businesses who exploit this cheap labor pool.  In reality, studies indicate that most illegal immigrants are willing to pay whatever back taxes are owed—and fines— if they have a chance to come forward without being separated from their families and their lives completely disrupted.

This CNN/POR poll finding is significant.  It indicates that more of us desire responsible leadership rather than political gamesmanship.  More of us want sanity and conscience to prevail over hysteria and meanness.  More of us will vote for legislators who act now for realistic national comprehensive immigration reform than those who delay, obfuscate and play divide-and-conquer games.

If those who came into our country without our permission or overstayed their work visas are willing to obey our laws, pay our taxes and learn our language, most of us are saying: “Welcome to America.”