Why bother? As I consider that question -- and as I looked through some old files in search of something else -- I came across something I wrote in the fall of 2002, prior to one of the earliest demonstrations in opposition to war in Iraq. It still rang true to me.
"Last night a member of our session raised concerns for the safety of those of us going to Washington this weekend to protest against war in Iraq. Following another random sniper killing in the Washington area earlier in the week her concerns prompted some reflection. Why run the risk, however infinitesimal, of stepping into the sights of a madman? It is a question worth pondering even if the risk is reduced by today’s arrest of suspects in the sniper case.
"In terms of relative risk, of course, I run a far greater one most afternoons when I cross Monticello Blvd. on my way for an afternoon java fix at Starbucks.
"But this decision is not about the kind of risks I choose to run, but rather about the kind of life I choose to lead. Meaningful lives are, ultimately, faithful lives. The opposite of faith is not disbelief or wrong belief. No, the opposite of faith is fear. A faithful life, a life of meaning, cannot be led in fear.
"It is faith that calls me to march in Washington this weekend -- faith in the Christ who said, “blessed are the peacemakers,” and faith that a better world is possible.
"The nation seems bent on a headlong rush into war. The talking heads assure us that most of the nation supports the president as he leads us with seeming inevitability down the same path his father walked 11 years ago.
"Faith compels me to witness: war is never inevitable. War is a choice that national leaders make, and war is a failure that they pursue as policy. Another choice is always possible, and the peacemaker’s calling is to stand in the public square and proclaim that possibility.
"So Friday night I will board a bus in Cleveland Heights with 50-some other Presbyterians-for-peace to make the long trek to the Mall in Washington.
"That 50-some Presbyterians from Ohio would hop on a bus for a 400-mile, overnight trip that will bring us home at 2 a.m. ought to raise all kinds of questions about the depth of support in the mainstream of middle America for this military adventure, but the pundits can ponder that. To me, this congregation of ordinary folk witnesses to an extraordinary truth: the peacemaker’s call compels us into the meaningful lives we would live.
"We trust that the most serious risk we run this weekend is the loss of two night’s sleep. But if our risk is bigger, we run it recalling Bonhoeffer’s reminder: when the Prince of Peace calls us, he bids us come and die. Die to lives of fear and be reborn to lives of faith. Die to lives of conventional wisdom and be reborn to lives of hope. Die to lives of age-old hatreds and be reborn to lives of exuberant love. Die to lives of war and be reborn to lives of peace.
"Why do I march this weekend? For my own offspring – beloved children of God -- I can only answer: blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God."