Friday, June 08, 2007

Peace Witness

From YAR blog, this first-person account of direct action civil disobedience in our time. I find it reassuring that the seeds of non-violence are alive and well in the next generation. In this post "Nicholas" relates the story of his arrest for anti-war activity. One definition of ministry is to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable. This man is doing both and has my deepest admiration and respect.

My beliefs in nonviolence originated with my family. It wasn’t about belief or creed or religion or spirituality: it was the simple understanding that violence was under no circumstances to be used to solve a problem. I never got into fistfights with my younger brother because it was just not done. I wasn’t even allowed to own Ninja Turtles or Power Rangers because they were too violent.

But while my family was able to craft an understanding of nonviolence for me, my desire to act comes from my faith. As a member of the Church of the Brethren, I am committed to following the only we creed we have: “Continuing the work of Jesus: Peacefully, simply, together.” And, while getting arrested Thursday was a small part of that, I’ve still fallen terribly short of what I could accomplish.

We are entering our fifth year of war in Iraq, and Cliff tells us his contact at the Pentagon says an invasion of Iran is a “done deal.” It’s estimated that between 650,000 and one million Iraqis have been killed as a result of this war, in addition to 3,250 U.S. soldiers and thousands of other coalition troops and civilian contractors. And the terrible tragedy of it is, we live in a democracy. As Gandhi said, the government operates only with the support, or at least consent, of the people. So the bloodbath in Iraq isn’t the administration’s fault. It isn’t congress’s fault. It’s my fault.

As long as we quietly obey the letter of the law and go about business as usual, we are guilty of every death in Iraq. The blood of hundreds of thousands of innocent people is on our hands because, presented with the sickening horror of conditions there, we turn our backs. Or we comment how we’re against the war, hold a sign at a protest, write an article in a newspaper, contact our representative… we accept the strict guidelines of the system, a system that has been deliberately and effectively crafted to keep us quiet and submissive.

Fear keeps us in line. A far greater fear and stigma surrounds arrest than did forty years ago, to be sure. Rules stack upon rules until we all have jobs, careers, and reputations to worry about, so we pretend we can’t do anything about the travesties we witness. It would have been easy for me to just walk away from it all, but then instead of answering to the district attorney, I’d be answering to myself and to God.

Jesus said, “Love your enemies.” Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.” And Jesus said, “Take up your cross and follow me.” You cannot tell me that Jesus would read about the deaths, rapes, thefts, kidnappings, bombings, loss of infrastructure, and continuing violence in Iraq and then go back to his quiet home and do his homework. You cannot tell me that the logical conclusion of Jesus’ message is a near-silent complaint by someone who is still obediently upholding the status quo. You cannot tell me that Jesus was not being arrested right beside me. In fact, if I were truly serious about doing my part, I wouldn’t have been getting arrested in the federal building Thursday: I would have been in Iraq standing in front of a tank. That is the kind of radical discipleship that Christianity is really about.

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