As I have flipped back to the front of the book more than once to revisit the original passage from Ecclesiastes I have been reminded again and again of the pairing done by its author: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; a time to kill, and a time to heal. It is a reminder that we do not live in an either/or world, but rather in a both/and world.
And that is complicated – and hard.
Chittister writes “The United States of America has waged wars – some of them for great and noble ideals, some for the basest of motives; some to rescue people, some to maintain cheap oil… War has been an exercise in glory for us, a silent worm in the heart of the nation, seducing its character, draining its resources, hardening its heart, becoming its business, undergirding its exports, always enhancing its advancement, never really taxing our security, our economic base, or our predicable future.”
I was interested in the link in a Face Book post by Margaret Benefiel late in August that reflected many of these same views, from many years ago:
Of all the enemies to public liberty, war is, perhaps, the most to be dreaded, because it comprises and develops the germ of every other. War is the parent of armies; from these proceed debts and taxes; and armies and debts and taxes are the know instruments for bringing the many under the domination of the few. In war, too, the discretionary power of the Executive is extended; its influence in dealing out offices, honors and emoluments is multiplied; and all the means of seducing the minds are added to those of subduing the force of the people. The same malignant aspect in republicanism may be traced in the inequality of fortunes and the opportunities of fraud growing out of a state of war and in the degeneracy of manners and morals engendered by both. No nation could reserve its freedom in the midst of continual warfare.
Those truths are well established. They are read in every page which records the progression from a less arbitrary to more arbitrary government, or the transition from a popular government to an aristocracy or a monarchy. [James Madison, "Political Observations" April 20, 1795.]
(The full text of the article may be found at this link: http://truth-out.org/news/item/11211-your-must-do-assignment-for-this-year-read-this-chart-and-pass-it-on#.UECsUY1a3b4.facebook
Chittister goes on to write “Clearly, evil has seeped into the soul of the nation but calls itself good, calls itself ‘freedom,’ calls itself ‘defense.’ …that may be the greatest madness of all… We need to become human again. We need to see that what has led us to our profits pretended to moral power has really led us to our peril….[A peacemaker need not be willing to die for something.] It is simply that a peacemaker is not willing to kill for it. The truth is that there is no such thing as a necessary war… There is no vindication in violence... It is time for a commitment to nonviolent resistance. If war we must, let it be with the brutality, the degradation, and the violence within ourselves. That will certainly be the only thing that in the end can possibly save us from ourselves.”
I am pleased to say I know several people who stand and work for these principles. One is a friend from my local church, Larry Piper who has for a number of years promoted peace in an organization called Reading Peace. (You might look it up on Face Book if you have access.) Each month in advance of the monthly presence on Reading’s town common, Larry posts a specific invitation, most recently saying “… it would seem, in our current climate of willful ignorance and denial, that reminding our friends and neighbors to seek peace is rather a Sisyphean task. It seems a worthwhile one to me, however; peace will never be achieved until people gain awareness of it and begin pondering its benefits to all.”
Another is Margaret Benefiel, a Quaker woman who works with people around making value-based decisions. I have had the privilege of sitting is some offerings she has led; she is a peacemaker. It was she who posted the link referenced earlier. (You can Google Margaret or find her on Face Book – or both.)
A newer contact in my life is Mary Luti, a UCC pastor and a professor who on this anniversary date of 9/11 invites us to prayer:
“So pray today that God will give us a new sky under which all creatures may live without fear of falling objects. Pray that what falls from the sky from now on will be only the grace of our Savior, in whom are joined the hopes and fears of all the years. Pray that under God's new, safe sky we who are witnesses to sorrow and to mercy will co - create with God a new, safe, just, and holy earth.”
There is a time for war – and if it had not come before today, then now is the time: a time to war against those things in our individual and communal psyches that seduce, harden our hearts, multiply opportunities for fraud and in the end, do not bring
security. And there is a time to heal – to heal our hearts, our egos, our brutality and desire for vindication. May it begin now.