Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God
In all honesty, I confess that I seldom read, much less quote the Bible. But one of the beatitudes comes to mind now and then: Matthew 5:9, in the Cambridge Ed. of the King James Bible which says: Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God. (Various versions read a little differently, but you catch the meaning.)
How does "the church" put into practice, this beatitude? And how is our society, of which we all are a part, encouraging peace and justice?
Albert Einstein is quoted saying: Peace is not merely the absence of war but the presence of justice, of law, of order. In short, no justice, no peace.
Sometimes it feels to me we are moving backward, instead of forward, as I notice that more and more television shows advocate violence and injustice. What role does the church play in all of this? What role, if any, should the church play?A friend of mine who lives in Indianapolis is a member of Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). She recently returned from several weeks in the West Bank , where she lived and worked with Palestinians, who have been repressed by the Israeli government (with help from my own government) for the past several decades. She recounts the violence and harassment she witnessed as Palestinians attempted to pass through Israeli checkpoints, going to or from their work or school. The motto of CPT is Getting in the way. Their mission statement reads: Building partnerships to transform violence and oppression.Even at the age of 75, she continues to be a true peace and justice activist. I stood with her last year as Veterans for Peace and Code Pink and other activists were arrested at the White House, protesting the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan . And at Quantico , VA , where Private Bradley Manning was being held in solitary confinement for allegedly turning over classified documents to WikiLeaks, the most notorious of which was a video of a U.S. helicopter gunship gunning down innocent Iraqi civilians, including two Reuters journalists. Manning, 24, faces life imprisonment for adecision I believe was motivated by conscience, not unlike Daniel Ellsberg and his Pentagon Papers forty years ago. Ellsberg said "I was the Bradley Manning of my day. In 1971. I too faced life (115 years) in prison for exposing classified government lies and crimes." Ellsberg was acquitted, and believes the same should happen with Manning, since Manning's alleged violation was revealing only "Secret" documents. Ellsberg's was classified "Top SecretSensitive."Another friend lives on a small farm outside North Manchester . He, too, is a member of CPT, and has worked in Palestine , as well as other countries where war, violence, or repression endangers the people Nearly 30 years ago, when I was a much younger man of 50, he and I and another friend sat in at a local Senators office for hours until a U.S. Marshall was summoned from Chicago to arrest us. (Nowadays, U.S. Marshalls are located at the Federal Bldg all the time. I guess they figure they save on gas that way. Then, we were protesting the U.S.-funded Contra war in Nicaragua . Just prior to that, the other friend and I just returned from spending a month picking cotton in Nicaragua helping to defend their revolution which, thanks to Oliver North and millions of dollars of U.S. taxpayer money, eventually failed.Being a peacemaker is not without risk. Speaking truth to power most often is met with either being ignored, marginalized, sometimes killed. Gandhi said First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, thenyou win. I have seen this with my own eyes with the Occupy movement which, despite the fact they have been evicted from most of the physical places they have occupied across the country, including Fort Wayne , is still very much alive, speaking truth to power.
45 years ago, on April 4, Dr. King delivered a powerful sermon at Riverside Church in New York City, entitled, Beyond Vietnam: A Time to Break Silence, in which he condemned the war in Viet Nam, saying that the greatest purveyor of violence in the world is my own government. Immediately after delivering that speech, he was condemned by Time Magazine, who called his speech "demagogic slander that sounded like a script for Radio Hanoi." The Washington Post declared that King had "diminished his usefulness to his cause, his country, his people. In fact, many preachers and others who worked with him in the civil rights movement, shunned him. Dr. King spoke truth to power. Exactly one year after delivering that speech, Dr. King was assassinated.
An updated summary of the charming record of US foreign policy, according to William Blum, Historian, since the end of the Second World War, the United States of America (my government and yours) has:
(Let me know if you doubt these statistics, and I will e-mail you sources)
- Attempted to overthrow more than 50 governments, most of which were democratically-elected.
- Attempted to suppress a populist or nationalist movement in 20 countries.
- Grossly interfered in democratic elections in at least 30 countries.
- Dropped bombs on the people of more than 30 countries.
- Attempted to assassinate more than 50 foreign leaders.
In a few weeks, I will stand with many of my fellow Veterans for Peace as a nonviolent buffer between the Chicago Police and those who are protesting NATO, which is holding its summit at McCormick Place . My presence will not make that much difference in and of itself. But I will be adding my voice and my body to the many thousands of others who have become sickened by the greatest purveyor of violence in the world and who believe we must stand for peace, not violence and war.
I support anyone who stands for peace, whether its getting between two angry individuals slugging it out, or who writes a letter to Congress or to the Editor protesting war, or who stand in silent vigil at the Courthouse Green holding signs for peace in all kinds of weather.So what does this mean for the churches, especially those that profess to believe and follow the teaching of Jesus? For one, I think it should mean that they ought to practice what they preach. (Matthew 7:16 Ye shall know them by their fruits,) often translated as By their works ye shall know them.
I challenge the churches of Fort Wayne , including my own, to speak out loudly for peace and justice, even if it seems risky. Dr. King and Gandhi would like that. So would Jesus.
Peace to my brothers and sisters,