Saturday, January 12, 2008

Witness to a Dream

If these were silent, the stones themselves would cry out loud ...
Witness for peace at Lafayette Park in front of the White House. Sunday,
Jan. 20 , 5:00 p.m.
Witness for peace on the weekend that celebrates America’s foremost peacemaker. King reminded us: there comes a time to break silence. Now is such a time!
Join a liturgy of peacemaking including the laying of stones at the gates to the White House representing the Iraq War dead. Their voices have been silenced; the stones themselves will bear witness.
There comes a time to break silence
“Some of us who have already begun to break the silence of the night have found that the calling to speak is often a vocation of agony, but we must speak. We must speak with all the humility that is appropriate to our limited vision, but we must speak. ... Perhaps a new spirit is rising among us. If it is, let us trace its movement well and pray that our own inner being may be sensitive to its guidance, for we are deeply in need of a new way beyond the darkness that seems so close around us.”
-- Martin Luther King, Jr. “A Time to Break Silence”

Convened in continuation of the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq by DC Metro area clergy and laity. For more information see:

Tuesday, January 08, 2008

Moving Mountains

The DC director of Greater Washington Interfaith Power and Light asked me to testify before the Virginia Corporation Commission concerning the licensing of the proposed Dominion Power coal-burning plant in Wise County, Va. GWIPL has been quite helpful to my congregation, so I was happy to return the favor by speaking against a proposal that runs counter to my denomination's stated positions on environmental justice, global warming and mountaintop removal. So here's what I offered the commission today in Richmond:
Thank you for providing this opportunity for public comment. I spent 10 years working in state government, and understand well the challenges of your work and appreciate its vital importance. The founding father of my own particular branch on the Christian family tree, John Calvin, said that public service is a sacred calling and it’s in that vein that I understand and honor the work that you do.
Honoring that work may be all that I have to offer you today. As a pastor, I cannot offer much by way of economic impact analysis – certainly nothing that you have not already heard and don’t already know better than I.
I cannot offer much by way of environmental impact analysis – certainly nothing that you have not already heard and don’t already know better than I.
I cannot offer much by way of political analysis either.
In fact, I cannot even offer you much that would be new to you in the way of moral analysis because you do not need me to teach you values.
The role of religious leaders in conversations such as today’s is nothing more than urging you to live up to those values that you already hold: to calculate economic impact in terms of the effect of your decisions on the most vulnerable, least powerful members of the community; to judge environmental impact in terms of the fundamental value of creation itself and humankind’s common charge to care for creation; to analyze political impacts not in terms of right or left but in terms of right or wrong.
You have no doubt already heard a staggering amount of factual analysis on this plant in all of those terms. So let me simply close with a brief story.
About a dozen years ago I spent a year offering some occasional assistance to a small congregation in the coal country of Eastern Kentucky. Once a month or so I drove 3.5 hours from Lexington to the tiny hamlet of Phelps to the Peter Creek Presbyterian Church that sat at the foot of Dick’s Knob. It was a long drive on a lot of windy mountain roads used by large coal trucks. Often it was a bit harrowing, and I was always relieved to cross the last ridge and see the shadow of the mountain crossing the face of the church.
It was a sight I came to expect and to take for granted, until the last time I made the drive. As I crossed the final ridge I noticed something different. The quality of light was different and I couldn’t quite figure out what it was. I looked up to see if the weather had changed unexpectedly, but that wasn’t it. Then I realized: Dick’s Knob was gone! The top of the mountain had been entirely removed.
Like some 300 mountaintops in the Appalachians, including in Wise County, the mountaintop was gone. Jesus said it would take only the faith of a mustard seed to remove a mountain; if he were here today he would suggest that just such faith can save the mountaintop from being removed.
That’s what we’re asking you for today: just a little faith. Faith in good-old fashioned American ingenuity that is creating more and better alternative energy sources every day; faith in our common will and commitment to becoming better stewards and more frugal consumers of energy; and keeping faith with our children as we work together to hand them a world that still has mountaintops.
When I drive through the Valley these days with my own children on our own trips down to the southern end of the Appalachians where I grew up, we stop frequently to enjoy the beauty of this commonwealth. I hope they make the same journey with my grandchildren some day, and I hope that I do not have to explain how it was that people of my generation had so little faith as to let the mountains be removed.