Condoms & Bombs

I’ve recently picked up again the book Persistent Peaceby John Dear, SJ (Jesuit Priest). I started reading it last summer before my trip to Australia and never got back into it upon my return – until now. If you aren’t familiar with John Dear’s writings, he comes at faith and theology from a nonviolent, liberation perspective. He has spent his entire life “ordained for peace;” working on behalf of victims of war, standing against the death penalty, challenging the government to seek peace and not kill. Fr. Dear has been arrested numerous times – staging sit-ins at the pentagon, facilitating civil disobedience at police stations and elected officials’ offices, standing in the way of the “industrial military complex” at every juncture he could. If this isn’t true faith and the living out of Gospel values I am not sure what is. If this isn’t a “faith the does justice” then I haven’t seen faith lately. I’ve been (re)inspired!

As I sat reading this morning on the shuttle downtown, I couldn’t help but think of this book’s timely invitation. In about a week, we usher in the season of Lent, a time of introspection, prayer, ritual, and a remembrance of Christ’s life and mission, death and significance, and re-appropriating such in our lives today. Jesus himself, a victim of murder and capital punishment, sought a new world order, one built on peace and love. Peering out the window to cars rushing by, several questions arose for me:

Is Dear’s spiritual memoir an invitation to look at the peaceful movements (and non-peaceful movements) in my life? Is picking up the book again calling me to look at the structures and systems that perpetuate violence? And finally, what about inner violence and destruction – the kind I strap on myself and is all too present in the hearts of many?

This would be quite the Lenten undertaking! I’m aware that it is not in the answers to these questions that I will find peace. Instead, in trying to be peace and yearn for peace, I am made peaceful.

I chuckled this morning when I read Dear describe the Catholic Church hierarchy’s often sluggish response to issues of war and peace.

“One friend noted that if the United States had dropped eighty thousand tons of condoms on Iraq, the bishops would have denounced it and done civil disobedience at the White House. Evidently, bombs did not hold the same priority” (Dear, 2008, p. 213).

As we gear up for another Lenten journey, may God give us the wisdom and foresight to focus on what really matters! In the meantime, I want to make a special effort to pray for all those affected by war and violence in our world today. May they be inspired by a persistence peace!

Dear, J. (2008). A persistent peace: One man’s struggle for a nonviolent world. Chicago: Loyola Press.

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7 thoughts on “Condoms & Bombs

  1. I (mostly agree), although I generally have a hard time with nonviolent smugness, even though some of my best friends are pacifists. It’s easy to understand why someone would react violently in Gaza, for example. And I’m not really about just communicating peacefully. Assertion and aggression are not always bad — in fact, it’s better to do that sometimes than be passive-aggressive. I had a dream where these bad guys were chasing me and my spiritual mentor showed up and told me to breathe, just breathe. The bad guys didn’t go away. I had to use physical violence to stop them. I also think the violence in ourselves has been demonized to the point where if someone says that their brother is violent and attacked me, he gets to automatically be a horrible, terrible, non-redeemable person — without the fact that he may have attacked that person, but he is still that person’s brother. There’s a bond there.

  2. “I have told you these things so that in ME you may have peace. In this world you will have trouble, but take heart, I have overcome the world.” John 16:33

    “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword.” Matthew 10:34

    If you’re looking for peace somewhere on this earth or looking to make peace in this world, you will be forever frustrated because peace is in Christ alone and nowhere else. You can have it now. Why wait?

    Ryan, I would highly recommend you read Richard Wormbrand’s, “Tortured For Christ”. This man repeatedly forgave those who brutally tortured him and won them over to Christ because he expressed to his persecutors the love of Christ regardless of what they did to him.

    There have been many who have done what John Dear is doing and there is no peace. There is less peace today than there was in the past. Imagine if all believers would or had share(d) the Gospel of Jesus Christ with everyone they knew. Then there would be more peace. We spend our time on what we think are sophisticated peace initiatives when all the time we could have been telling people about the Prince of Peace and demonstrating it to them by loving them and sharing the good news; even at great cost to ourselves.

    Jesus says, “If the world hates you, keep in mind that it hated me first. If you belonged to the world, it would love you as its own. As it is, you do not belong to the world, but I have chosen you out of the world. That is why the world hates you.”

    Does the world hate you Ryan or love you?

    Grace & Peace in Him alone!

  3. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God.” -Matthew 5:9

    While “world peace” is still a hope and a prayer, we are called by Jesus to seek peace. I don’t think it’s so simple as Ryan or Fr. Dear looking for peace only in and of the world – once one has experienced the peace and love of Christ, is that not more of an impetus to be an instrument of peace to all our brothers and sisters?

    For me, because I believe each person is the image of God, they must be honored as such. That is what compels me to work for peace and justice.

    Thank you, Ryan, for this timely reminder of the necessity of working for a more peaceful and just world.

  4. What great imagery! And I hear what you are saying Theodora-but I think there are ways to practice and aspire to nonviolence without it seeming smug. I imagine one way to get at that is to avoid seeing this as an us vs them issue. And recognizing one’s own need for continued learning. I remember at the same time that I have often learned life lessons from ‘imperfect’ people. Don’t kill the messenger but I also think we shouldnt kill the message just because of the messenger.

  5. I am glad you posted those thoughts, Theodora. You are right, this “smugness” exists. We do have to be careful to not let this interfere. Moreover, efforts to demonize the “violater” because of their use of violence is tempting too – but it is here, perhaps precisely because of their use of violence, that we commit to loving them even more because we know relationships can be different.

  6. God loves me unconditionally, mrissman. And because of this, I want to share that love and peace with others. You are right in that we can’t bring about this love and peace on our own, without a discerning community that prays, worships, and joins in fellowship together directed toward God.

    At the same time, a hellenistic theology of God v world, good v bad, etc. that diminishes/reduces God and the Spirit’s power in the world today I think is a mistake, too! Perhaps I error in being too idealistic (I’ll own that), but I truly do believe God’s divinization can be manifested in the here and now, through a community of believers, and that the reign of God does see in-breaking through loving and peaceful people.

    Why wait? Don’t wait – be God’s presence in the world today, now! It can’t come without a transcendental yet immanent God, but it certainly isn’t something that God wants us to wait until we are dead/have to be dead to experience. It may not come to its fullness until the end of time, but it certainly can be in process today – in spite of our brokeness, sin, seperation, materialism, etc.

  7. Ryan,
    Every person you share Christ with can have the peace of God immediately upon their receipt of that gift. Would you agree with that? It doesn’t take a “discerning community that prays, or worships or joins in fellowship together directed toward God.” Those things will certainly be offshoots of those who have placed their faith in Christ, but they are not necessary for one believer to share with others the Gift of God. It’s a matter of order. Which is primary and cause, and which is secondary and effect?

    Those who choose not to accept God’s one and only son will not have peace and the proliferation of non-peace will continue with that person. They are condemned. Check out John 3:18. That doesn’t sound like a person who is won to the peace process.

    What I hear too many people say is “do all this stuff (e.g.; protests, votes, resistance, marches, complain, listen to speeches, etc…) and we can have peace and justice. I say “share the Good News” with others and they will share it with someone and so on. 5000 churches have been planted in Mozambique in the last few years by this method. I don’t hear anything like that happening where people are so focused on “social justice” and “racism”. Look where God’s kingdom is growing rapidly on earth and you will not find “social justice programs or anti-racism programs at the center. Is the rapidly growing church in China working on social justice programs or on spreading the Good News of Jesus Christ?

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