Last Saturday I participated in the peace march in DC. I've never liked peace marches because there are so many different messages and agendas and there is, even within the peace movements, a lot of what approaches "hate speech" about those who disagree or are following wrongheaded policies. But I had to do something after the, to me, totally surreal account of the war in Iraq in the State of the Union address and particularly the way the President characterized as "our enemies" a whole group of people who oppose us for varying reasons -- some of whom are out to kill us, yes. But we have gotten ourselves into so much trouble by oversimplifying the complexities of the Middle East. And we need some kind of radical new way of looking at it.
I came early and attended an interfaith service on the Hill sponsored by a group called the Network of Religious Progressives. I heard about them through the Episcopal Peace Fellowship. What they stand for, I can get behind: an insistence that the politics of domination and control are not the right direction for this country or for humankind. That the values that we express by "generosity" and "love" -- though those words get trivialized -- point the right direction. It was a good gathering -- some helpful reflections from the Scriptures of different faiths, chanting, a variety of worship styles, but mostly just a sense of shared commitment to seeking a way forward and believing in what politicians say is impossible. I'm still exploring this network: their website is http://www.spiritualprogressives.org/ -- I'm going to sign their Iraq peace ad, which calls for: an act of repentance: the President admitting that we were wrong in Iraq and seeking the support of the world community for a way forward; a process of "drawing back" our troops while other countries in the region step in to protect civilians caught in sectarian crossfire; and a commitment to stay engaged through something like the "global Marshall plan initiative". We may argue about practicalities, but it is a vision for a way forward that is about human engagement and a hope for healing in a broken world. Spiritual Progressives leader Rabbi Michael Lerner, who has a good statement about what the day was like for him on line, reminded us at the service that the precedents for the kind of the thing the network hopes to get out there are the faith community's support for the abolition of slavery, the end of apartheid in South Africa (and the "Truth and Reconciliation" model developed afterwards), the Women's movement, the Civil Rights movement. All of these began with people of faith joining with others committed to social justice and insisting that we can pursue the impossible. A wise woman in the church has been quoted often as saying "the Power behind you is greater than the power in front of you." It was good being with a large group of people who believe that, or want to. And it was good, and inspirito have this perspective offered as the opening to the rally on the mall, though very disappointing that that opening appeal to spiritual values got NO coverage in the media that I could see.
I'm slow to sign up for things, but I am watching with interest how this message gets out -- I wonder how it strikes others.
- Kathleen Henderson Staudt
- I work as a teacher, poet and spiritual director at a number of institutions in the DC area. My teaching focuses in various ways on writing, poetry, Spirituality and Christian vocation and ministry - especially from the point of view of the laity. I also offer classes and retreats encouraging people to explore their inner lives, engage their creativity and reflect on their beliefs about God, vocation, and how we can discern and pursue new ways to transform our broken world. I enjoy speaking of faith in the secular academy as well as reminding those preparing for ministry in the Church that our primary purpose is to love and serve the world beyond the church's doors. I love helping people to grow in faith and to find their own voices, and I also love encouraging them to use their minds. I see no contradiction between these impulses, believing as I do that faith, reason and creativity work together.