Monday, October 1, 2012

"Peace I leave with you" (Jn 14:27)

This year’s DC Green Festival served as a reminder of all the things I used to be so passionate about before becoming  complacent again in the face of overwhelming problems that I couldn’t fix single-handedly, and because I have the luxury of ignoring the problems as I retreat into the ignorant way of life that most people find comfort in. 

Alex and I haven’t been in a couple of years, but this years, since we are on our church’s Green Team, and since we’re the ones who brought the festival to the attention of the rest of the committee members, we attended both days of the Green Festival.  

We planned which talks we’d attend in advance, sometimes sitting in on talks together, other times going our separate ways to cover multiple topics.  We enjoyed some vegetarian cuisine at the food court, stopped by multiple vendor tables for free samples, literature, and to gather ideas – both for what our church is trying to do and for our personal education.  Three other Green Team chairs also attended, all for the first time.  

There was much that I learned, still more I was reminded of, and a not too shabby amount I felt justified for having been following for years.  But the flip side of being informed is feeling responsible to act.  I say “flip side” because responsible action isn’t always as easy as it should be. 

For instance, a talk that really moved me was by Medea Benjamin, cofounder of Code Pink and Global Exchange who, immediately after her talk, was getting on a plane with a delegation and flying to Pakistan.  She enlightened me on the dangers of military drones when in the wrong hands.  The part that really stayed with me was how the majority of Americans apparently find no problem with the US using remote-controlled drones to kill thousands across the ocean… because American pilots for these drones are sitting in the safety of a virtual cockpit and going home to their families after a day of killing.  

She also pointed out that we are essentially instigating retaliation attacks by refusing to remove our military presence from other people’s national borders.  The American government finds no problem with crossing borders uninvited in the name of our brand of democracy, but feels violated when others return evil for evil, as happened on 9/11, for instance.  

Most Americans think that the so-called war on terror began on September 11, 2001, I think.  After all, that’s the day when OUR borders were penetrated and OUR people were killed in cold blood.  Therefore, we had the right to fight back, right?  Except that few people seem to want to listen to our enemy’s explanation for WHY they attacked us in the first place.  If we take the time to listen, we see that our ongoing presence within THEIR borders, interfering with THEIR way of life, has not been well received.  

Now don’t get me wrong – I do believe that as a powerful nation, when we become aware of human rights abuses anywhere in the world, by virtue of us having the ability to help, we are obligated to help.  But HOW we help is where I think the problem begins.  I don’t have the answers.  I’m only pointing out what I’m observing.

Which brings me to my final point regarding war, peace, and the founding fathers’ Judeo-Christian values that so many Americans constantly refer to whenever they feel threatened by the mainly Muslim Middle East culture in any way.  We are quick to defend OUR freedom of religion, OUR  faith values, OUR rights… but what about what Jesus taught about turning the other cheek? (Matthew 5:39) What about what Jesus taught about forgiveness?  (John 20:23, Matthew 6:14-15) What about what Jesus taught about praying for our enemies and being merciful to those who persecute us?  (Luke 6:28) THAT suddenly gets blasted for being “un-American”.  We can’t have it both ways.  We can’t claim to be a “Christian nation” without fully ascribing to all Christian values.  Forgiveness, mercy, and compassion are pretty much the crux of Jesus’s teaching, life, ministry.  Without these, we cannot call ourselves His followers.

So I am left with a conundrum.  What can I, as an individual citizen, do in the way of peace?  So often I’ve read Scripture about how important peace is to God, and so often I’ve made the connection between how there cannot be peace on earth when there is so little peace in the hearts and minds of most people.  People who are at peace do not start wars.  But also, people not in power do not start wars either.  Therefore, it is imperative for our leaders, the ones who have the power to wage war, to be at peace with themselves.  Again, though, I wonder – how can *I* be of service to the Lord in this regard?

I must remain open to God’s inspiration and willing to abide by His will, though I do not yet know what that is, other than having this realization and posting it here.

Luke 23:34
Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.

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