The Things I lean On

It’s been a busy and intense week, so my apologies for not being faithful in my writing this week.

For some reason I found this comforting when it played on my Spotify, thinking of so many I see each day at work and many close to heart in my circle of friends and family deeply hurting. My things are different than Wynonna’s, but thank the mothering Holy Spirit for each thing that carries me through and each of you who are her presence lifting me up.   I wanted to share it with my readers.

 

What are those gifts of the Spirit holding you up or pulling you through?

Micah

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A Week in the Word: Life, Liberty, and Freedom For All

I want to share words of a good friend, a veteran, about the events of this week as my week in the word.

Hope it blesses and challenges you,

Micah

(words by Jeff Hall)

Another day. Another back man shot and killed by police while his hands were up. Meanwhile, we continue to have people up in arms about the fact that athletes are protesting actions like this by kneeling during the national anthem.

The “establishment of justice” and the idea that “all men are created equal” are not simply ideas. They are our founding principles, enshrined in the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. The “Star-Spangled Banner” was a poem that became a song and wasn’t made our national anthem until 1931. It, like the flag it describes, is a symbol of the principles so eloquently laid out in the founding documents.

If you are more upset by the disrespect shown for a SYMBOL of our country’s principles than you are by the disrespect shown **to the actual principles themselves** every time black bodies are treated as less equal and destroyed without due process or the establishment of meaningful justice then you need to take a step back and re-evaluate how you really feel about America.

Colin Kaepernick is not the problem. Blind, unquestioning allegiance to a symbol is a problem. Turning our backs on who we are as a people to destroy the lives of those we have decided are “other” is a problem.

I have risked my life in multiple theaters and on multiple occasions to defend the CONSTITUTION of the United States, and all the principles it enshrines. I didn’t do it to defend a flag, or a song. I did it so we could live in a country where we were free to be who we are – even if we are black – without the fear of being deprived of our life, liberty or property without due process of law.

By all means, get pissed. But get pissed about the right thing.

Song of the South: (repost) Dandelion’s Lament

A poem I wrote inspired by autumn.

Hope it blesses you,

Micah

 

dandelion

Dandelion’s Lament

Upon a spiders web you hang
Exposed
Only a breath away from falling

So the prophet-seer said.

And so I am
Dangling
Caught in winds
Winds of what was
And what may be
Open, vulnerable
To all that lays below and around

spider web 2

Be they the prophets’ consuming flames
Or jagged rocks with knife like edge
Or surging waves swallowing my soul
Into unceasing storm

Or upon freshly greening soil
A shedding of all the certainties
Which I wrap around myself
To warm my trembling form
Like so many tattered rags
The death of all my expectations
And identities
So this seed may fall away
And I spring up
Greenly leafing
Into possibilities undreamed.

seedling

Song of the South: (repost) Cry of the Cicada

Here is a poem related to celebrating this autumn season.

 

The Cry of the Cicada

cicada 2

Sure footed, eyes ahead, I move forward
shoes plodding onward across asphalt streets
my agenda for the day like shades
dimming my vision
blocking out un-necessary distractions
on the horizon of my mind
until I hear it.

Ebbing low, then high,
a quick rattling
like the pennies in a bottle
my wife used to train her service dog
to not be shaken by the bangs and pops of fireworks

Unceasing, it grows
its metallic voice a whine and squeel of pops
a sound like rain on a hot tin roof
turned orchestral
steady pitter patter
turned explosion of sound

Its voice a roar of wavescicada

overtaking beach
has me in its grip
so I am the sand slipping between your toes
ever moving, sliding as if if into endless oblivion of sea
yet solidly still underneath

Like a sudden burst of fire
it sets the tree beside me to shaking
rising til it reaches crescendo
then fading to silence
for a moment
then trees around me each burst out in rattling answer

burning_bushwith which you call me, no longer a whisper
hidden beneath the noise of my day
but a roar of carapace and wing
so, like Moses on the mountain,
I burn but am not consumed
“Take off your shoes,” the music whispers
“this is holy ground”.
And I do, knowing it always is.

(repost) Why starving brown skinned children frighten us: Confronting the Racism at the Heart of our Immigration Debate

With the many debates about Syrian refugees and immigration in this election year, as well as the ongoing experience of violence and threat faced by people of color, I thought it would be appropriate to share an old blog post discussing the fear  our society often stirs up against immigrants and people of color.

Your progressive redneck preacher,

Micah

 

Why starving brown skinned children frighten us: Confronting the Racism at the Heart of our Immigration Debate

unaccompanied immigrant children

It would be hard to have not had immigration and borders on your mind at some time in the last few weeks. With the arrival of a throng of scared, dirty, hungry, and thirsty children at the southern borders of the United States plastered across TV screens, newspapers, and the internet, everyone has been talking about “How should we respond to these children at our borders?”

immigrationOn the one side, we have people saying “they are children, for God’s sake. We cannot turn a blind eye. Let’s welcome them in, harbor them, give them safe passage”. On the other side, we have people saying the law is the law. These children’s parents are irresponsible. They should never have sent them here as it is — what can we do with them but send them back?

Murrieta_ProtestersWorst of all, we have had people screaming “go home” meeting these children on the border with guns and American flags waving who, I think, really don’t express the best motives of those involved on both sides but, instead, the long-running fear of outsiders who are of black and brown skin that have permeated the southern states since their inception. This irrational fear of those of black and brown skin is what led to the Jim Crow laws in the southeast following the American attempt at reconstruction there following the Civil War. It also motivated the horrible mistreatment of Native Americans all over the southern states, on both coasts. It motivated the concentration camps we Americans tossed Japanese immigrants and Japanese American citizens into in California in the time surrounding World War II. And it is part of why our criminal justice system in the southern states is clogged to capacity with a majority of people of color, while white people commit as many and as heinous crimes on average. The threats and threatening behavior to these poor, scared children is an expression of the collective guilt we southern whites share over our treatment of people of color in slavery, in Jim Crow, and in the forceful theft of Native American lands, which instead of bubbling up in contrition and an attempt at amends instead bubbles up in a hatred and fear of those who we deem as “not American enough” which really means “not white enough”.

Downtown in Lumberton, NC.

I saw this when I lived in Robeson County, North Carolina, while pastoring Painted Skies Christian Ministries, a short lived intentionally multi-racial, multi-cultural welcoming and affirming church. Robeson County is deeply divided along racial lines. I remember while shopping in its old-fashioned downtown district having a resident who was alive in Jim Crow years tell me how when he was a child, he could not even go downtown. Though Robeson County’s population is predominantly Native American, during Jim Crow the local authorities did not allow anyone but white people to even walk through and shop in the downtown district of Lumberton, the county seat, without them being arrested.

A Pow-Wow in Robeson County held by the Lumbee tribe.  Pow-wow's are traditional celebrations of tribal culture for Native American tribes.

Even though Jim Crow had officially ended, while I pastored in Robeson County I saw the community still be very racially divided down as to where people lived, and even who people dated and married. I remember distinctively a young Native American lady I worked with at a non-church job I worked in order to support my ministry, who was encouraged to stay with an abusive boyfriend rather than a very loving and supportive male friend she wanted to date because the one who treated her well was black, and dating him would be “moving down” in status in her family’s eyes due to his race. I also remember when Barack Obama became president a biracial member of our church telling me, with shock and horror, how white members of her family were saying they were frightened Barack Obama would move them onto plantations, make them pick cotton, and have them as mistreated as they and their ancestors had treated people of color.

Though I don’t think most white southerners are so overt in describing their fears about race, or how they bubble up into racist actions and behaviors, it would be unrealistic to say that we are not influenced by this in our dialogue about issues in the south. Do any of us honestly believe that the resistance Barack Obama faced from white southern voters and their representatives in congress would have been nearly as extreme if he were, like Bill Clinton or George Bush before him, a white southerner? To put it another way, if he was white and named “Barry Smith”, how many people would have been flooding Congress with requests to see the president’s birth certificate?

mandelaquoteIn future blog posts, I hope to talk about what Scripture says about our relationship to immigrants is, and about what it says about borders specifically. But before we can discuss the issue of borders and immigration we have to think for a moment about this lingering legacy of racism, which is expressed in southern white culture’s fear of black and brown skinned people as “other”, as ones who pose a threat to white culture, which we like to pretend is “American culture”.

I’d like to recommend as a resource the following website, which includes a series of radio presentations on the continuing legacy of racism not just in the south but throughout the United States:http://bringingdownthenewjimcrow.com/ This series, coming out of Michelle Alexander’s groundbreaking book The New Jim Crow, uses real life stories and interviews to illustrate various dimensions of how racism continues to shape not just American culture but policy in ways that structurally harm people of color. A number of programs connect the issues being faced by African American people in the US with those being face by people of Hispanic descent.

As Christians, racism is not OK. More than that, it is a grievous sin.  It is a denial of the promise of Genesis 1 that all people are made in the image of God. Its a denial of Galatians 3 that in Christ neither gender, class, or race ought to define who people are in the sense of how they are treated. This is not color-blindness. Rather it is a recognition that people’s culture is beautiful and a gift of God. Acts 17 tells us that God is at work in the histories of every people. This means instead of fearing people of other cultures and skin colors, we need to learn to work past our fears in order to learn to embrace people different than ourselves in their differences as gifts of God. In each person’s story, in their culture, in their gifts and talents, there is a reflection of who God is that could not be visible to us without them just as they are. This is why Psalm 139 teaches us to praise God we are fearfully and wonderfully made.

Yet racism is insidious.

Rev. Curtis May, doing a presentation for "Office of Reconcilation and Mediation", near Los Angeles, CA.

It, like ogres in the above clip, is a multi-layered thing. The Office of Reconciliation and Mediation  defines racism as prejudice put to power; and lists racism as not existing on the conscious level where we are aware of it, but also including unaware racism, cultural Racism, stereotyping, internalized racism, institutionalized racism, and denial of racism.

Confronting our own racism and working to change is a difficult journey. I’d recommend groups such as the ministry I mentioned above, The Southern Poverty Law Center , and the Racial Equity Institute , as beginning places to find resources toward working to confront your own personal racism and also discovering what steps you can take to help share in the task of working to build a less racist society.

If you live in or are willing to make the commute to the Carolinas, I’d invite you to consider taking the anti-racism classes the Racial Equity Institute offers in the Raleigh/Durham/Chapel Hill area. There are details about these training conferences available at Organizing Against Racism.

dinner-table-l

A final problems is that this racist fear leads us to embrace the idea that there will not be enough. Yet the Biblical call is for us to work to build a world where there is more than enough for everyone.

The prophet Micah, who my parents named me after, spoke of this when he envisioned a day in which “But everyone shall sit under their vine and under their fig tree, and no one shall make them afraid” (Micah 4:4).

This is what the early Christian community lived out in Acts:
“All the believers were together and had everything in common. Selling their possessions and goods, they gave to anyone as they had need…All the believers were one in heart and mind. No one claimed that any of their possessions were their own, but they shared everything they had… There were no needy persons among them. “ (Acts 2:44-45, 4:32-34)

To work for a world in which there are “no needy persons among” us because all have as they need is grounded for Christians in the hope and promise of the Holy Spirit, whom Psalm 104 promises us enlivens the world in such a way that there is always more than enough, if we but choose to redistribute it with justice and compassion:

“God causes the grass to grow for the cattle,
And vegetation for the service of human beings,
That they may bring forth food from the earth,
And wine that makes glad their hearts,
Oil to make their faces shine,
And bread which strengthens their hearts…

The earth is full ..

You may give them their food in due season.

What You give them they gather in;

You open Your hand, they are filled with good...

You send forth Your Spirit, they are created;
And You renew the face of the earth.”

one familyThe lie the lingering slave-holder mentality in the south has taught us is that this is a utopian dream, that the call of the prophets and of Jesus to build a world where there is enough for all is impossible.  Its lie is that God is so callous that the Spirit does not fill the earth with good well enough that, if we share that good with justice and compassion, generously and fairly, there will be enough for all. Instead racism teaches us to believe we must settle for protecting “our own”, having others be in a place of want or powerlessness so people “like us” can thrive.

This in reality is not true.

A 2013 study already shows that, just in the area of nutrition, we already produce enough as a world that no one ought to grow hungry:
“The world produces enough food to feed everyone. World agriculture produces 17 percent more calories per person today than it did 30 years ago, despite a 70 percent population increase. This is enough to provide everyone in the world with at least 2,720 kilocalories (kcal) per person per day according to the most recent estimate that we could find (FAO 2002, p.9). ”
(Taken fromhttp://www.worldhunger.org/articles/Learn/world%20hunger%20facts%202002.htm )
The Holy Spirit is filling the world with good, with more than enough for all.  The problem is not that there is not enough to provide for us and others. The problem is the way in which our society’s methods of distributing money, power, and resources remain wedded to greed, prejudice, and fear in ways that keep the bulk of food, money, and power in the hands of the few.

I think this is at the heart of Jesus’ rarely followed and often explained away teaching “If you want to be perfect, go, sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow Me.”” (Mattthew 19:21).  Jesus knows the reason for poverty is not that there is not enough, but that its kept in the hands of just a few.  So Jesus calls us all to reconsider the ways in which we may prop up this status quo with our choices, and invites us to find ways to do our part in leveling our society’s playing field.

To bring real change to this, we need to trust the promise there is more than enough for all of us.  We need to find ways to let go of our fear of others, and begin to open up to share God’s blessing with all.  To change the structures of our society so that wealth and power aren’t hoarded in the hands of a few along largely racial lines requires confronting the specter of racism.  It begins with me.  It begins with you.
When we begin in our own stumbling way to answer this call, we will go a long way to living out the late Vincent Harding’s invitation, included in this clip, to build a better world:

Let’s do it together!
And I’m not just whistling Dixie,
your progressive redneck preacher,
Micah

micah pic

Song of the South: (repost) Heart Song

Heart Song

mistRising like all enveloping cloud,

morning mist which both conceals color, distance, and faces
while revealing shape and feeling,
even of tiny pebbles that are but pin pricks on the soles of my feet,
embraces me in cool dampness.

I cannot see the dimly lit dropoff but a few feet away
that mountainside beyond which lies unspeakable beauty
made visible by simple stroke of sun’s golden fingertips
yet now shrouded by silky threads of fog which
shelter us like those many pinioned swings the Psalm sang of falling over us.

mist 2

And yet, though unseen,
such looming depth seems more visible
a pull like gravity
both promising and threatening like the hoot of the screech owl heard in the evening
screech owlto which my own wild man wakes up,
a call which that part of me still pumping
the blood of hunter gatherer tribesmen
through my veins
on hearing longs to walk
the green trail
hear the rustle of leaves
sing the song of the creeks
join in the heart song of growing things
yet alarming like the distant call of the train upon the mountain
which shatters sleep in an instant
a moment in which that high pitched wail,
growing ever louder, seems to call out my name.

And perhaps it does.
Perhaps I do hear some long black train, the one old songs name.
long black trainPerhaps such beauty does remind me
that it swooped down for her – unexpected, unbidden.
Such shock lies on the horizon of my mind, always present.

God knows I hear that train song each day,
as my palm graces the back of a strong woman,
fierce in pride and independence
now wasted to skeleton,
days from cancer taking her
yet still afire with poise, grace, and beauty.

God knows I hear that wail, loud and shrill,
as I hold the hand of a man tough as nails,
face grizzled by years
seeing the light of your coming in his eyes
like sunrise reflected on the dancing blue green of the Eno’s winding waters
and see his face break into childlike grin at the sound of his name upon your voice.

Perhaps so
and yet
deer in woodsbeneath it all in the thick mist
gathered around me like grandma’s blanket
thick and comforting
I hear the song
sung by the call of birds
the rustle of deer almost hidden in the trees
the cry of the katydid
the whistle of a morning pot of tea
and the quiet coo of newborn child

Though I will always hear your call,
oh long black train,
it is to this song I will not fail to move,
my body a wave on its passing river
my heartbeat a note in its melody.

(repost) Working Toward Peace in a World of War

I thought it would be appropriate to share this post, many years old, again, in light of the recent concerns around bombs and in light of the many concerns about violence related to police violence this past summer.

So often in the face of terrorism, war, and both police and military violence, our response can be to return with violence of our own, forgetting in the escalating nature of violence.

I thought these thoughts, largely not original to me, on the Christian call to be people of peace in our world of violence, was a good reminder at this time.

Your progressive redneck preacher,

Micah

 

Working Toward Peace in a World of War

Recently I was reminded of the costs of war. First, as I mentioned recently, seeing terrorist violence break out in the city of Nairobi, near where the young lady my wife Kat and I hosted as an international exchange student goes to school shook me up making the real costs of war come home to me. Someone’s son or daughter always is threatened, and often dies in the face of war.

As I mentioned in an earlier blog post, hearing and watching that news made me think of this White Lion song:

Yet also recently encountered the cost of war on soldiers as well. This side is one I saw first hand while pastoring a church in Fayetteville, NC, a military town that supports Fort Bragg, NC. I had parishioners whose partners and family members came home scarred and damaged by the physical scars of war. More than one person I met returning from our recent wars also bore deep emotional scars.

Earlier this year, my wife Kat and I took our family to listen to a number of soldiers who sang and performed music of all kinds of genre about their experience of war. One who gripped my attention is the rapper “Soldier Hard”. Take a moment and listen to some of his songs:

War also has costs for family, as this song pictures so well –

My friend Chuck Fager, former head of the Quaker House, several times has told me that these dual costs of war – of the innocents and soldiers alike – is a part of why, as a Quaker, he has always stood against all war. That ministry, now led by Lynn and Stephen Newson, has a part of its central work being available to soldiers and veterans in the Fort Bragg area and beyond experiencing the emotional fall-out of war and helping them find options for putting their lives together after experiencing the costs of war.

Although I myself am not the radical pacifist that my Quaker brothers and sisters are, but instead relate more with Deitrich Bonhoeffer who opposed violence in all its forms but who when he saw the atrocities being committed by Hitler and the NAZI regime was willing to take on arms to prevent greater evil and greater violence from happening, I think that their witness is important.

Too often we American Christians forget that Jesus calls us to embrace a life of non-violence and, wherever and whenever possible, to stand against warfare and for peace. In the sermon on the Mount Jesus tells us both “Blessed are the peacemakers,  for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9) and “You have heard that it was said, ‘Eye for eye, and tooth for tooth.’But I tell you, do not resist an evil person. If anyone slaps you on the right cheek, turn to them the other cheek also. And if anyone wants to sue you and take your shirt, hand over your coat as well. If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles. Give to the one who asks you, and do not turn away from the one who wants to borrow from you. “You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” (Matthew 5:38-45).

Jesus’ call to us as believers is to strive to be people of peace, who live out the promise of the prophets of waging peace not war, by beating swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks.

Too often we take the opposite tack and in our desire to pray for God and country, end up ending up on the band-wagon of almost endorsing wars and violence in the name of patriotism.

In reality, whether like Gandhi and some of my pacifist friends you don’t believe violence is ever the option even when bombs are falling upon us, or like Bonhoeffer that there is a line in the sand where you have to protect innocents, as Christians we cannot endorse violence as a knee-jerk response or a first resort. If turned to it has to always be a last resort, after every other non-violent means has been exhausted.

True Just War

For those of us who are not pure pacifists like my Quaker brothers and sisters, I think we need to consider what true just war theory teaches.

Here are the traditional tenets of just war:

A just war can only be waged as a last resort. All non-violent options must be exhausted before the use of force can be justified.

  • A war is just only if it is waged by a legitimate authority. Even just causes cannot be served by actions taken by individuals or groups who do not constitute an authority sanctioned by whatever the society and outsiders to the society deem legitimate.
  • A just war can only be fought to redress a wrong suffered. For example, self-defense against an armed attack is always considered to be a just cause (although the justice of the cause is not sufficient–see point #4). Further, a just war can only be fought with “right” intentions: the only permissible objective of a just war is to redress the injury.
  • A war can only be just if it is fought with a reasonable chance of success. Deaths and injury incurred in a hopeless cause are not morally justifiable.
  • The ultimate goal of a just war is to re-establish peace. More specifically, the peace established after the war must be preferable to the peace that would have prevailed if the war had not been fought.
  • The violence used in the war must be proportional to the injury suffered. States are prohibited from using force not necessary to attain the limited objective of addressing the injury suffered.
  • The weapons used in war must discriminate between combatants and non-combatants. Civilians are never permissible targets of war, and every effort must be taken to avoid killing civilians. The deaths of civilians are justified only if they are unavoidable victims of a deliberate attack on a military target.

Look over those various tenets of just war. How many conflicts that our country has been in really fall under these tenets? How many are truly justified?

I personally feel that as a society we are too quick to embrace violence, both in our relationships with each other and with other nations. We are too slow to weigh the cost of wars to our soldiers, to their families, and to the innocents effected by our conflict. We are too slow to seek non-violent solutions.

As someone who is not a pacifist, I think ultimately the question of war needs to be thought of in terms of Neimholler’s classic poem which says,

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out–
Because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for me–and there was no one left to speak for me.

I think whenever non-violence can be chosen, it must be. However ultimately we cannot stand by as individuals or society and let people harm innocents un-opposed. And as with the Holocaust, there are certain tragedies that we may not be able to stop without a police force or military to defend the innocents. However I truly believe many more of the conflicts we face can be dealt with nonviolently than we often realize.

Seeking Just Peace-making

Glen Stassen, in his ground-breaking book Just Peacemaking: Transforming Initiatives for Justice and Peace, argues that we miss the boat by pitting pacifists and just war Christians against each other. In truth both approaches argue for the need to work to limit violence wherever possible. Stassen suggests “just peace-making” as an approach that can unite believers from both perspectives in putting aside differences to build non-violent alternatives to war.

Here are the ten principles of just peace-making he suggests on the website justpeacemaking.org :

Part One: PEACEMAKING INITIATIVES

1. Support nonviolent direct action.

Biblical basis: Matt. 5:38-42 – Turn the other cheek, give tunic and cloak, go the second mile, give to beggar and borrower; Jesus’ way of transforming initiatives

Nonviolent direct action is spreading widely, ending dictatorship in the Philippines, ending rule by the Shah in Iran, bringing about nonviolent revolutions in Poland, East Germany, and Central Europe, transforming injustice into democratic change in human rights movements in Guatemala, Argentina, and elsewhere in Latin America, in South Africa. Governments and people have the obligation to make room for and to support nonviolent direct action.

2. Take independent initiatives to reduce threat.

Biblical basis: Matt. 5:38-42 – Turn the other cheek, give tunic and cloak, go the second mile, give to beggar and borrower; Jesus’ way of transforming initiatives

Independent initiatives have several characteristics in common. They: (1) are independent of the slow process of negotiation; (2) decrease threat perception and distrust but do not leave the initiator weak; (3) are verifiable actions; (4) and carried out at the announced time regardless of the other side’s bluster; (5) have their purpose clearly announced in order to to shift toward de-escalation and to invite reciprocation; and (6) come in a series. Initiatives should continue in order to keep inviting reciprocation.

3. Use cooperative conflict resolution.

Biblical basis: Matt. 5:21-26 – Go, make peace with your adversary while there is time.

Cooperative conflict resolution (CCR) incorporates practices like: (1) actively partner in developing solutions, not merely passive cooperation; (2) adversaries, listen to each other and experience each others’ perspectives, including culture, spirituality, story, history, and emotion; (3) seek long-term solutions which help prevent future conflict; and (4) seek justice as a core component for sustainable peace. A key test of governments’ claims to be seeking peace is whether they initiate negotiations or refuse them, and develop imaginative solutions that show they understand their adversary’s perspectives and needs.

Examples: (a) President Carter’s achieving peace in the Camp David accords between Egypt and Israel; and (b) peaceful resolution of conflicts with Haiti and North Korea by former president Carter. Unfortunately, Carter’s resolution of the conflict with North Korea was  cancelled at the beginning of the George W. Bush administration, which rescinded the promised delivery of oil for producing electricity so that North Korea would keep their nuclear generation halted. That administration refused to negotiate with North Korea for six years, contrary to the just peacemaking practice of cooperative conflict resolution, and as we see, the result was North Korea’s producing several nuclear bombs.

4. Acknowledge responsibility for conflict and injustice and seek repentance and forgiveness.

Biblical basis: Matt. 7:1-5 – Do not judge, but take the log out of your own eye.

Until recently, it was widely agreed that nations would not express regret, acknowledge responsibility, or give forgiveness. But finally Germany since World War II, Japan and Korea, Clinton in Africa, the U.S. toward Japanese-Americans during World War II, the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission, and other actions (described by Donald Shriver in An Ethic for Enemies and by Walter Wink in When the Powers Fall) are being recognized as a crucial new practice that can heal longstanding bitterness.

Part Two: WORKING FOR JUSTICE

5. Advance democracy, human rights, and religious liberty.

Biblical basis: Matt. 6:19-34 – Do not hoard, but seek God’s reign and justice.

Extensive empirical evidence shows that the spreading of democracy and respect for human rights, including religious liberty, is widening the zones of peace. Democracies fought no wars against one another during the entire twentieth century. They had fewer civil wars. And they generally devoted lower shares of their national products to military expenditures, which decreases threats to other countries. Ties of economic interdependence by trade and investment also decrease the incidence of war. Engagement in international organizations like the UN and regional institutions is a clear predictive factor that they will be much less likely to engage in war.

6. Foster just and sustainable economic development.

Biblical basis: Matt. 6:19-34 – Seek God’s reign and justice.

“[P]eace is not only an absence of war, violence, and hostility; it is also a state of reconciliation, human flourishing, and natural beauty” (Just Peacemaking, 2008, 134). Sustainable development occurs where the needs of today are met without threatening the needs of tomorrow – where those who lack adequate material and economic resources gain access, and those who have learn to control resource use and prevent future exhaustion.

Part Three: FOSTERING LOVE AND COMMUNITY

7. Work with emerging cooperative forces in the international system.

Biblical basis: Matt. 5:43ff. – Love your enemies, pray for your persecutors; be all-inclusive as your Father in heaven is.

Four trends have so altered the conditions and practices of international relations as to make it possible now, where it was not possible before, to form and sustain voluntary associations for peace and other valuable common purposes that are in fact working: (1) the decline in the utility of war; (2) the priority of trade and the economy over war; (3) the strength of international exchanges, communications, transactions, and networks; and (4) the gradual ascendancy of liberal representative democracy and a mixture of welfare-state and laissez-faire market economy. We should act so as to strengthen these trends and the international associations that they make possible.

8. Strengthen the United Nations and international efforts for cooperation and human rights.

Biblical basis: Matt. 5:43ff. – Love your enemies, pray for your persecutors; be all-inclusive as your Father in heaven is.

Acting alone, states cannot solve problems of trade, debt, interest rates; of pollution, ozone depletion, acid rain, depletion of fish stocks, global warming; of migrations and refugees seeking asylum; of military security when weapons rapidly penetrate borders. Therefore, collective action is increasingly necessary. U.S. citizens should press their government to pay its UN dues and to act in ways that strengthen the effectiveness of the United Nations, of regional organizations, and of multilateral peacemaking, peacekeeping, and peace building. They resolve conflicts, monitor, nurture, and even enforce truces. They meet human needs for food, hygiene, medicine, education, and economic interaction. Most wars now happen within states, not between states; therefore, collective action needs to include UN-approved humanitarian intervention in cases like the former Yugoslavia, Haiti, Somalia, and Rwanda “when a state’s condition or behavior results in… grave and massive violations of human rights.”

9. Reduce offensive weapons and weapons trade.

Biblical basis: Matt. 5:38ff. – Do not set yourself in revengeful retaliation by evil means, but engage in good means of nonviolent confrontational initiatives

A key factor in the decrease of war between nations is that weapons have become so destructive that war is not worth the price. Reducing offensive weapons and shifting toward defensive force structures strengthens that equation. Banning chemical and biological weapons, and reducing strategic (long-range) nuclear warheads from 3,500 to 1,000 each, are key steps. Arms imports by developing nations in 1995 dropped to one-quarter of their peak in 1988. But the power of money invested by arms manufacturers in politicians’ campaigns is a major obstacle to reductions. The need for movement on this front domestically can be seen in many recent incidents of gun violence.

10. Encourage grassroots peacemaking groups and voluntary associations.

Biblical basis: Matt. 5.1-2, 7:28-29 – Jesus taught the Sermon on the Mount to his disciples; Jesus’ strategy of organizing disciples.

The existence of a growing worldwide people’s movement constitutes one more historical force that makes just peacemaking theory possible. They learn peacemaking practices and press governments to employ these practices; governments should protect such associations in law, and give them accurate information.

I want to close by sharing a link to the classic Lennon song, envisioning the future without war we build to.

Peace is a possibility. Let us beat our swords into plowshares, our guns into gardening tools.

And I’m not just whistling Dixie here,

your progressive redneck preacher,

Micah
2013-07-10 07.19.16