Writing in 1962, Thomas Merton said, “the task is to work for the total abolition of war.”
Merton was right then, and he is right now. Indeed, if anything, the task is more urgent now than it was in 1962.
Merton was not naïve. He understood that the task that he named as the abolition of war involved work on multiple levels on multiple issues starting at the level of our own hearts.
He ended his great essay on the roots of war with these words:
“It is absurd to hope for a solid peace based on fictions and illusions! So instead of loving what you think is peace, love other men [and women] and love God above all. And instead of hating the people you think are warmongers, hate the appetites and the disorder in your own soul, which are the causes of war. If you love peace, then hate injustice, hate tyranny, hate greed – but hate these things in yourself, not in another.”
I have been praying for peace, marching for peace, organizing for peace, working for peace, donating for peace, witnessing for peace, singing for peace, petitioning for peace and every other act for peace I have been able to imagine since I was in high school. I have a passion for peace.
As I read Merton, I am reminded that a passion for peace, like any passion, involves suffering and death. I am further reminded that my work for peace is work for the death of injustice, tyranny and greed in my own heart.
Such heart work is done best in community. That is why I really hope that some of you can join me and hundreds of others this Wednesday evening at 7:00 at National City Christian Church as we worship and witness for peace in our own hearts and in the heart of our nation.
As Martin King said in 1967, some five years into another endless war, “Now let us begin … let us rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter, but beautiful, struggle for a new world. This is the calling of the [children] of God.”
Grace and love can change the world.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.
Why witness now? Why go to the White House when the current occupant has pledged to end this war?
Well, to begin with, President Obama has promised an end, but actions speak louder than words and even his words, if put into action, will leave 50,000 American troops in Iraq in 18 months. Christian colleagues in Iraq remind us that real peace and security in Iraq for Iraqis will not be possible until the American occupation ends.
So we go to the White House to press the president not only to live up to his pledge to end the war, but also to end it now.
In addition, Wednesday's worship and action are a Christian peace witness FOR Iraq and for Iraqis. So we will be pressuring the White House Wednesday and lobbying Congress later to support an Iraqi-lead international effort to rebuild Iraq and care for the five million people displaced by the war.
With the economic crisis overshadowing everything (except perhaps swine flu), it is important to remind people that the occupation of Iraq is not over, that Iraqi people continue to suffer and that American lives are still being lost. Perhaps, if nothing else at all, the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq this year is a service of remembrance.