Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Why We Witness

I don’t know how this will turn out, but I do know how it began. I don’t know whether or not the witness some of us have called for September 16 will result in arrests, and I certainly have no coherent thoughts – hopes or fears – about anything like “results” in any larger scale.
But I know it began with an e-mail from the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq last month calling upon those of us who had participated in the March 16 witness and worship at the National Cathedral to initiate a continuous witness for peace beginning precisely six months after that initial liturgy.
When I received the e-mail I did what I suspect most recipients did: I checked the handy “event search” function on peace witness web site. I assumed, living and working within a few miles of the White House, that I’d find a witness in the District and, presuming my schedule allowed, I’d show up.
When nothing turned up from a zip code search, I responded the way most participants in the earlier witness probably would have: I assumed that we hadn’t given enough money when Rick Ufford-Chase, executive director of the Presbyterian Peace Fellowship, called the offering at the Cathedral in March and so no staff was available to keep the events calendar current. (I thought that was a shame since Rick gave the only offering call that I’ve ever known to draw an ovation from those being asked to part company with their money.)
So I did what, again, I assume most folks would have done: I e-mailed colleagues in the area to ask whether or not anyone was aware of any peace witness on the 16th or if they had any plans to put something together.
I quickly heard back from a number of folks with the same basic message: “no, I’m not aware of anything, but if you wanted to put something together I’d like to hear about it.”
My immediate response was to think, who am I to do that?
Then I heard this persistent, small voice asking, “who are you not to do that? After all,” the voice continued, “this war is begin waged in your name with your tax dollars? Who are you to sit silently when you could speak?”
I could speak mostly because I am blessed to know faithful people who are unafraid and who carry me along when I am too timid and tepid to engage what needs engaging. So I connected with them, and together we imagined a witness that might, in a small way, help in breaking the long silence of the church since the war began.
As we did the work of imagination, we talked about what it means to witness, about trusting that the outcome is in God’s hands and that therefore to witness is to be liberated from crushing concern about results. To witness, thus, is to trust that the arc of the moral universe does bend toward justice and to put one’s hands to the arc and bend a little harder.
That’s what we’ll be doing on the 16th.

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