Blessed Are the Peacemakers

Recently, I have been turning toward the Beatitudes. I have looked at them from every direction and wondered why more “Christians” haven’t taken to them as a way of life. The one that really struck me today was Matthew 5:9, “Blessed are the peacemakers: for they shall be called the children of God.”

All my life, I have been a peacemaker. (Well, okay, there was one period of about 5 years where I tried to stir up as much drama with my family as I could. . .but let’s not dwell on the past) I don’t like it when people fight and I just want to see people get along.

I seem to have been born with a highly developed sense of compassion and empathy. I used to (and still do) befriend what my mom lovingly termed, “The Unlovables.” These were the kids that got picked on in school because they were different. The kids that had no friends. I was constantly asking questions as to why people were being treated so badly and my heart regularly broke for them. I also have to admit (much to my chagrin) that I got a little teary at the end of Dangerous Liaisons when I watched it in high school. My heart broke for Glenn Close’s character. Yes, she brought most of it on herself, but did she really deserve to be treated so harshly by the very society that created her? Where was the compassion? I know, I know. . .it’s silly.

There have been many inspirations for me over the years: Mahatma Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Jimmy Carter, the Dalai Lama and Martin Luther King, Jr. And more recently, there have been some inspirations from closer to home: Liz Welch of the ACLU Montana, Gregory Smith of the Pride Foundation, Caitlin Copple, Jamie Greer, Edie Windsor just to name a few. These are the “Children of God.”

I have seen some very negative posts lately. I have even created one. And if you saw my last post, you will also know that I have issued an apology in the interest of being a peacemaker. I do not presume to know the mind of God. I would be leery of anyone who says they do. However, I listen to the “Still, small Voice” inside and I know what God says to me. And it may not be the same thing that God says to you. Does it mean you are wrong? No. Does it mean I am wrong? No. Just different.

Christians are not bad people. They are people, just like the rest of us. They make mistakes. They fall from the path. We have to remember to hold ourselves to the very standards that we are comparing them against, like “Judge not, lest ye be judged.” I would also refer to Luke 6:42 “Either how canst thou say to thy brother, Brother, let me pull out the mote that is in thine eye, when thou beholdest not the beam in thine own eye? Thou hypocrite, cast out first the beam out of thine own eye, and then shalt thou see clearly to pull out the mote that is in thy brother’s eye.”

A moment of clarity came to me this morning in a Biblical argument with a misinformed person. The Bible is a tool to show YOU how to live. It is NOT a tool for YOU to show ME how to live. It is for me to use the tool myself. But, I digress.

Psalm 34:14 says, “Depart from evil, and do good; seek peace, and pursue it.” Pursuing peace and negotiating it is a tricky business. But even the ACT of pursing peace is the act of departing from evil and doing good. We need to be mindful of that.

The Old Testament was tribal law, meant to hold the Israelites together during the time when they had no home. The Old Testament is included in the Bible to show Christians where they came from and what their history was. Jesus brought the New Testament to show a better way to live. It is a new covenant, replacing the old. Jesus was/is the Son of God. A child of God. A peacemaker.

I will continue to be a peacemaker. I will continue to support people that are peacemakers. I will continue to fight for people’s rights and to fight injustice where I see it. That is part of what being a peacemaker is.

Perhaps I am not on the forefront, helping to change and write policies and laws, but that doesn’t mean I am ineffective. I am on the sidelines, changing people’s minds and hearts. I write because I can, because it is a talent given to me by God and I have been charged with using that talent. And I will continue to wield it as a peacemaker. I am a child of God.

 

Negative Mind

The moment is borne on the break of the morn with a hope

gilt

gilt (Photo credit: jenny downing)

whispered well from the night.

That the soul can be torn-

with the tiniest scorn of a mind uncaring, asleep-

is truer than writ

and often is split with normalcy’s lure in it’s mouth.

The joy of the pain of memory’s gain

becoming a burst-

a purified trout breaking up.

Always happily glancing-

sometimes lightly dancing-

eternity treading lightly on brow.

But there followed behind

the laughing mind,

quietly mocking it all-

paining the heart

and ruining the art that

so gracefully graced the wall.
~D Gregory Smith

Christmas Eve

The snow covers the sins of the world,
some say,
and the light slowly returns to the hemisphere I live in.

But the guns are not silenced,
the hungry not satisfied,
the angry not loved-
despite the peaceful heart,
the plentiful harvest,
the need to be understood-
despite the gospel of childhood that springs to life about now.

Maybe it is spite, after all, that is the enemy of all we love-
that stands in the way of love.

Despite

 

~D Gregory Smith

The Pope Chooses War, I Choose Self Defense

Yesterday Pope Benedict XVI spoke to a group of bishops on their ad limina visit- and with all the topics available to him (hunger, poverty, abuse of women, social injustice, racial inequalities, nuclear threat, stewardship of resources, etc), he chose to speak to them about the necessity of battling the “powerful political and cultural currents seeking to alter the legal definition of marriage….The church’s conscientious effort to resist this pressure calls for a reasoned defense of marriage as a natural institution,” which is “rooted in the complementarity of the sexes and oriented to procreation,” he said.

“Sexual differences cannot be dismissed as irrelevant to the definition of marriage,” the pope said.

Defending traditional marriage is not simply a matter of church teaching, he said; it is a matter of “justice, since it entails safeguarding the good of the entire human community and the rights of parents and children alike.”

Whenever I hear a leader speak the word “Safeguard”, I pay attention. It is a word used by institutions and governments to promote the protection and defense of something fundamental to it. It is not a passive word. It says to me that the Pope is ready to fight for his narrow theological/historical position on sexuality and marriage. Something he believes is fundamental to Christian faith- even though marriage is curiously absent from the Nicene Creed (325-381 ad)- which most Christian churches profess as containing the essential, fundamental elements of Christian belief today.

He did not choose dialog or express interest in hearing about the experiences of thousands (millions?) of LGBTQ catholics and their families. He did not choose to understand, he chose to condemn.

In other words, he openly advocated war.

It’s a culture war, it’s a war of ideologies. It is, in fact, if you count all the open and affirming Christian churches that  welcome LGBT persons and their partners and children into their congregations, a war of christian theology. But it’s a war nonetheless.

I believe it to be totally unnecessary- and I also believe it conflicts with the very theology the catholic church espouses.

“War” is defined thusly: “a state of armed conflict between different nations or states or different groups within a nation or state”. “Armed conflict” is an important term to notice here. I think it can also mean non-physical weapons- weapons of ideology or theology, for example. But I would be naive not to think that some of the faithful out there may hear in these words a clarion call to harm LGBT persons and their families. I would also submit that the Pope’s words have already harmed them by creating ‘enemies of the church” out of persons and families who have nothing more important in mind than following their hearts and minds- and souls. And, if you recall your history, enemies of the church have not fared so well.

And in that case, the Pope needs to take a closer look at his own catechism.

If someone attacks me and threatens my life or my way of life, according to the Catechism of The Catholic Church, I have the right to defend myself.

 2264 Love toward oneself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is legitimate to insist on respect for one’s own right to life. Someone who defends his life is not guilty of murder even if he is forced to deal his aggressor a lethal blow:
If a man in self-defense uses more than necessary violence, it will be unlawful: whereas if he repels force with moderation, his defense will be lawful…. Nor is it necessary for salvation that a man omit the act of moderate self-defense to avoid killing the other man, since one is bound to take more care of one’s own life than of another’s.[65]

2265 Legitimate defense can be not only a right but a grave duty for someone responsible for another’s life. Preserving the common good requires rendering the unjust aggressor unable to inflict harm. To this end, those holding legitimate authority have the right to repel by armed force aggressors against the civil community entrusted to their charge.[66]

And with the rhetoric being used by the Pope to the bishops in his address yesterday, I have every reason to believe that these are not words of someone struggling to understand the reality of LGBT persons, these are the orders of attack given by a supreme commander to his highest officials. And I’m confused because- try as I might- I can’t imagine Jesus saying them.

I also have every reason to fear for my safety and the safety of all LGBTQ persons. And before you accuse me of being overly dramatic, remember that the pro-life message has spurred numerous acts of violence- in the name of life, I might add. People in Uganda, the Middle East and elsewhere are being butchered and abused because they are known or perceived to be gay.

So do you think these words will be like soothing balm on the righteous indignation of the zealot?: …”threats to freedom of conscience, religion and worship which need to be addressed urgently so that all men and women of faith, and the institutions they inspire, can act in accordance with their deepest moral convictions.”

I’m an idiot if I don’t believe that someone out there is going to see this as a reason for violence- physical or psychological. And remember how powerful psychological threats are- those are the very things killing our kids.

I want to be clear- I am not advocating violence in any form. I’m advocating self-defense. And I’m advocating a careful, calculated, firm and reasonable response to this madness. I want the argument to be two-sided. I want the voice of the Pope and the bishops to be countered by the voices of people who see the Christian message in a different way.

If the Pope chooses war, I choose to oppose that war. I challenge it on its very principle.

So, if I may be so brazen, I would like to be one of those counter voices. Feel free to add your own voice in the comments.

To my LGBTIQ family,

Love toward yourself remains a fundamental principle of morality. Therefore it is important and necessary to insist on respect for your own right to life. I believe you have been created to fill a very important place in this world- a place often dramatically misunderstood and opposed by people out of ignorance and fear.

It is crucial that you understand that you are not alone- there are millions of people who want to understand you and accept you and who will love you. You have the right to be understood- and you have the right to love and be loved in the ways you feel are most faithful to your created nature.

You have the right to live free from fear of attack and violence. You have the right to defend yourself against ignorant attacks on your dignity, happiness and self-respect. You have the right to fulfill your potential and to follow your heart and mind and soul and dreams to the best of your ability. Despite ignorance, despite persecution, despite fear and power and hate.

I believe that we are all beloved by the God of our understanding. I believe that we are valuable in being beloved. And that value is not diminished, even in the face of anger, fear and ignorance. Even in the face of religious belief which would deny us that value.

We are a courageous, wonderful people, with visions of love and acceptance and equality and happiness that I believe are deeply important to the future of the world.

I beg you, don’t let go of these visions- no matter how strongly others try to pull them away from you. They are your birthright.

They are the key hope to a world filled with peace.

Amen.

Living The Generous Life

Ode Magazine, something I look forward to every month, has an article entitled “Reflections on The Generous Life”- an antidote to the massive consumerism that infects the world at this time of year.

Hymns Children Generosity

Image via Wikipedia

For 30 years, most of us in the Western world have been having a party. We have been encouraged to be self-sufficient and independent, to become successful and rich, to search for true happiness and find “the real us.” We’ve been encouraged to buy our own homes, invest in shares, become entrepreneurs, travel the world and borrow as much money as we liked to consume “things” that upon cool, calm reflection we didn’t really need—or use. We have been ­cleverly and ruthlessly advertised and marketed at to buy a lifestyle rather than get a real life. We thought we had it all.

But now, the world is not in a happy state—and neither are most of us. We are nationally, corporately and individually bust, owing unimaginable trillions that would make our more prudent forebears groan with disbelief and which will take our children decades to repay.

I think it is time to change the world, for every one of us to wake up and decide that we, as individuals and in groups, can tackle the challenges our society faces. We can all become leaders and authors of change by living more generous, proactive lives, by inspiring each other and by setting an example for our friends and our children.

 Generosity, giving, sharing, change- things I love.

 

Reversal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” a Good Beginning

A Commentary by Warren J. Blumenfeld

The United States Congress last February passed and President Obama signed historic bipartisan legislation to rescind the so-called “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” policy enacted in 1993 mandating that lesbians, gays, and bisexuals who join the ranks of the armed forces maintain complete silence regarding their sexual identities. Over the years, the military dishonorably discharged an estimated 14,000 service members on the so-called “charge” of being “homosexual” under this policy. On September 20, the policy reversal went into effect.

As our troops are currently stretched thin throughout the world’s conflict areas, the former policy only exacerbated the problem and discredited our country by eliminating an entire class of people whose only desire was to contribute to the defense of their nation.

This policy will end an era of blatant stereotyping, scapegoating, and marginalization. It will open a new epoch in which service members can serve their country proudly with honesty and with a deep sense of integrity. In addition, now a formerly excluded group of talented and committed students can join ROTC programs, and a new cohort of active service members will receive the benefits of educational and career enhancement opportunities.

They will enter into a social institution that often works to prevent genocidal slaughters anywhere throughout the world, and engage in humanitarian and peace keeping efforts – from disaster relief to cooling a number of the world’s “hot spots.”

Existing medical and conduct regulations, however, still prohibit many individuals along the transgender spectrum from enlisting.

As I have followed the debates over the years, I have been constantly struck by the arguments favoring maintenance of the DADT policy, ranging from fears over the “predatory nature of the homosexual” in bunks and showers, to homosexuals crumbling under the pressure of combat, to these service members placing themselves in compromising situations in which they will be forced to divulge critical defense secrets to foreign governments. I give credit to lesbian, gay, and bisexual people for maintaining a willingness to join the military following such scurrilous and libelous depictions.

While stated military goals may promote the notion of providing global security and protecting and defending the homeland, we must maintain and extend our focused and continued attention and critique, however, on the overriding abuses of maintaining a military that engages in unjustified incursions into other lands controlled by an industrial complex that promotes corporate interests.

In this regard, history is replete with not-so-illustrious examples of U.S. policy abuses enacted and enforced by the military establishment — from the extermination, forced relocation, and land confiscation of native peoples on this continent, to the unjustified and contrived war with Mexico, to the racist-inspired incarceration of Japanese Americans in the interior U.S. during World War II, to governmental destabilization efforts and military incursions into such places as Vietnam and Laos, Chile, El Salvador, Panama, the Philippians, and throughout the Middle East.

During the past decade, we have lost thousands of our brave warriors in Iraq and Afghanistan, and the current military defense budget of approximately 768 billion dollars seriously drains our treasury and increases our national debt.

Looking over the history of humanity, it is apparent that tyranny, at times, could only be countered through the raising of arms. On numerous occasions, however, diplomacy has been successful, and at other times, it should have been used more extensively before rushing to war.

I, therefore, find it unacceptable when one’s patriotism and one’s love of country is called into question when one advocates for peaceful means of conflict resolution, for it is also an act of patriotism to work to keep our troops out of harm’s way, and to work to create conditions and understanding that ultimately make war less likely.

I contend that individuals and groups that stand up and put their lives on the line to defend the country from very real threats are true patriots. But true patriots are also those who speak out, stand up, and challenge our governmental leaders, those who put their lives on the line by actively advocating for justice, freedom, and liberty through peaceful means: the diplomats and the mediators; those working in conflict resolution; the activists dedicated to preventing wars and to bringing existing wars to diplomatic resolution once they have begun; the individuals of conscience who refuse to give over their minds, their souls, and their bodies to armed conflict; the practitioners of non-violent resistance in the face of tyranny and oppression; the anti-war activists who strive to educate their peers, their citizenry, and, yes, their governmental leaders about the perils of unjustified and unjust armed conflict and invasions into lands not their own in advance of appropriate attempts at diplomatic means of resolving conflict.

While the reversal of “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell” will reform a discriminatory policy, it in no way addresses the intense interconnections between the U.S. military and corporate interests and the promotion of U.S. capitalist hegemony worldwide.

Dr. Warren J. Blumenfeld is an Associate Professor in the Department of Curriculum and Instruction at Iowa State University. He is co-editor of Investigating Christian Privilege and Religious Oppression in the United States, editor of Homophobia: How We All Pay the Price, and co-editor of Readings for Diversity and Social Justice. Reprinted with permission.

Oslo: Something To Remember

I’ve been struggling to find a meaningful way to discuss the Oslo/Utoya tragedy- and I’m at the point of simply admitting the sheer frustration I have with my abilities as a writer, as a therapist, as a commentator- and as a human being. Maybe you’re there, too.

I want to know things that may be impossible to know: What created Anders Behring Breivik? Or, at least, what caused him to turn an automatic rifle towards children- strangers, innocents- and begin firing? What can prevent this sort of thing from happening in the future?

It’s not easy, but to glean anything from the news reports and the writings of Breivik himself is to come up with large fistfuls of chaff and a few measly chunks of nutritive information. The temptation to run with them is strong. The temptation to demonize right-wing extremists and to create parallels in the U.S.- where none may exist- is almost aching in its pull. The desire to condemn this violence as something entirely opposite from my particular political and social point of view is hard to ignore. And yet, for all these strong temptations, I can’t get past one thing.

What terrifies me most is that it happened in Norway.

“The country maintains a Nordic welfare model  with universal health care, subsidized higher education, and a comprehensive social security system. From 2001 to 2007,[13] and then again in 2009 and 2010, Norway had the highest human development index ranking in the world.”

This is not a country of people who are suffering from great numbers of the hungry, homeless, uneducated and uninsured. This is one of the most prosperous (human condition-wise) countries in the world. It has one of the strongest safety nets- if not the strongest- in the world for the protection of its citizens.

If such a tragedy could happen there- then what does that mean for the rest of the world?

I don’t know. And I’m not sure we’ll ever know.

I do know that all the laws in the world, all the tightening of regulations and of loopholes and sterner conviction and punishment policies won’t do one thing: they won’t mend the damage that has happened to people who now look at the stranger on the street with mistrust and fear.

What will?

Perhaps a reminder that this man became divorced from the human race in favor of an ideology. That he couldn’t see the suffering of fellow creatures as something relevant- because his beliefs and ideologies drowned them out- displacing compassion and even, I would argue, his humanity. It’s what we’ve seen before, it’s what we see now- subtle sometimes, but definitely present:

Ideology crowding out humanity.

We see it in political strategies and campaigns. It is visible in church policies, legal precedents, economics, social commentary- you name it, it’s probably there.

When ideology displaces humanity, our soul- our safety net- has departed.

I would suggest that the only way to get beyond this universal tragedy is to learn its lesson. And, it may be simpler than we think. To paraphrase Jesus of Nazareth, “People were not made for the law, but law is made for the good of the people.” All people. All human beings. Not just some. Not just one race, one gender, one sexuality, one religion, one political party, one country, etc.

The tragedy is in forgetting- forgetting that we’re all in this together. And arguably, every historical attempt to negate that simple statement has ended in tragedy. I will not bring in the dramatic historical examples you may be thinking of right now. That would be too easy. And this, for being such a simple concept, is obviously not so easy- or we wouldn’t be talking about it right now.

We only remember when horrifying tragedies like this make us stand up and take notice.

And that, I think, is the greatest tragedy of all.

The Voice Of Injustice Is Silence

I’ve been asked by a number of people where I got the tagline for this blog.
It came from a poem I wrote a few years back- and I honestly don’t think I stole it. Many things go through a writer’s brain between thought and writing- at least this writer- and I am never really satisfied when I read on of my published poems. I guess that’s why I keep writing them….

Still

It is time to open your mouth
And shape the sounds that give form
To the deathless moans of pain and suffering.
Because the voice of injustice is silence.

It is the industrial silence of the corporate owners
of the soul of America.
The owner of the rape victim
Has turned out to be the rapist,
who nurtures its growing fetus
with anger and guns,
With temples and sugar and crack.

It happens because it is
Purchased with favors
And scratched backs
And pretended piety.
The silence of fear,
Of the voiceless ones
Who see no Jesus in their
Cornflakes- only the one meal of
Their lonely, silent day.

“Keep them down and quiet,”
the fools say,
Because their money blinds them to
Moral bankruptcy and stupidity
And their power-drunk ears
Are closed to their own heartbeats.

But the voices will wake,
Sleepy maybe, at first,
But rested and ready.
They and the very stones will
scream, shouting from
The driveways of the country clubs
And the walls of the churches and schools
And Capitols, “Enough!”

It will be.
And the peace will not be a quiet peace.
It will be real and full of the sounds of
Life.
Unpurchased and awake.

My favorite MLK quote

Have we not come to such an impasse in the modern world that we must love our enemies – or else?

The chain reaction of evil – hate begetting hate, wars producing more wars – must be broken, or else we shall be plunged into the dark abyss of annihilation.

~Martin Luther King, jr