Dear Ones — know that you are love and are living on Earth to love. This is not a social media announcement. I’m probably breaking the rules~not the first time.
We can do acts of kindness. We can give more from our larder, walk in the shoes of a mother from Honduras, tutor in a poor school with immigrants, open our homes to Syrians. This is Christian charity, and it is good. We can give from our hearts. And often in charity we only give from our excess. Is this all we are called to do? Is kindness in safe measures what Jesus did? Or what the Holy Spirit today is asking us?Read more
by Minga Claggett-Borne
Some proclaim that peace is possible. Really? Where? Does it last? Quakers and Amish and some intentional communities have islands of peace. Some scientists think we can abolish war. I certainly pray for it. I thought our economy depended on war. Certainly our entertainment thrives on blood and feuds. Maybe abolishing war in 2015 is too grandiose.
Let’s begin with something basic for the next 5 years: Can we eliminate aggressive violence? This is not the same as establishing peace, but let’s start somewhere. Elise Boulding, a Quaker professor of Peace Studies, talks about a culture of peace, which seems distant, oh so idealistic. But over the last hundreds of years we have eliminated stocks, public whippings, flogging children in schools, etc. Are we creeping towards a culture of peace—can we edge away from a world of more violence?
I agree, over time, to keep peace one must work for justice. In my mind, structural violence and behavioral violence seem intertwined. Shooting or punching are terrible, and so is grinding poverty. But is the first step stopping the mass killing, or addressing racism? Can we eliminate behavioral violence, even though the absence of war is different from the presence of justice and/or peace. Babies are still hungry and women are illiterate? To put it bluntly, I’d rather have a hungry child than a dead one.
When the Allied Nations stopped the extermination, many Jews were still held for many years in squalid conditions in the Nazi camps. Many countries after 1945 (including the US) refused to accept Jewish refugees. That was structural violence, but we had eliminated the outright murder in the death camps. Maybe I’m splitting hairs, but I’m sure that stopping nation’s aggression will give space for us to address poverty and oppression.
Quakers have adhered adamantly to the peace testimony meaning a renunciation of all outward weapons. The world in 2015 is so far from that stance, what could be a feasible change to help people to abolish war, or aggressive murder. Let’s explore what must happen, at a minimum, for peace to be possible. But what if we supported the UN using some form of violence in cases of statehood aggression. Personal violence is immoral, but Randy Forsberg believes in “defensive nonviolence”, where armed force is used only in defense. The military would be strictly and narrowly conceived.
After Vietnam, US military kept a force that is not drafted temporarily for one war, but a body drafted as a permanent part of US forces in peace time. The goal was to keep leaders in power who are friendly, or to a cynic, leaders who follow the US’s agenda. We know that Vietnam, Afghanistan, and Philippians are not about to attack the US, yet we want military bases there. We must get a UN agreement for the US to abide by international law. And that law should say that no country can invade another’s’ borders. The UN, not the US, decides when another country needs protection.
We know that families, neighbors, schools, morality of all religion says that murder is wrong. Why would we allow mass murder by our military? Let’s stop fooling ourselves. The military doesn’t protect us: it encourages more violence in the world. Now that, is scary.
I am growing slowly, steadily. Imagine a dandelion, stretching its yellow tendrils. in the face of climate disaster I’m humbled but not cowed. I am reconfiguring the pieces of my life.
The tempests, the droughts, the melting ice caps are speaking to us louder than any scientific treatise. Human greed has caused havoc with this planet. The biodiversity is amazing and wonderful. Global warming has informed us that humans have smashed tough boots into the ground, causing massive carbon footprints. Humans over consume, overcrowd the land, pollute the air and seas shamelessly.
Our exploitation has broken harmony with creation. When we create dissonance with creation, we break with the Creator. We cannot be a people following God and continue our current lifestyle. The 8 commandment says
Do not steal. We steal forests, rivers, and food from the poor. The 7th commandment says
Do not commit adultery. We do rape the land with fracking, building pipelines through aquifers, and mountain-top removal for coal powered electricity. The 6th commandment says
Do not kill. The killing that happens because of fueled vehicles, air-conditioned buildings, and butchering animals breaks my heart. Do we need to destroy so much of the earth? Will motorboats and hummers be remembered in 100 years when eagles and big cats and coral reefs have died?
We were given a Garden of Eden. We are not to dominate. It is not even a Garden entrusted to us. We are dependent on it, and thus must listen to its needs, not only to human needs.
Where do we find guidance in the midst of climate change? The stories of Genesis, Navajo creation stories, and the Cherokee and Seneca are ancient lessons. The guidance of human behavior, human love and justice can be found in many scriptures like the Torah, Bhagavad Gita, and the Bible. Thirdly we can listen to the voice of creation today. The Christian trinity is the Creator, the Messiah and the Holy Spirit. Well the Spirit is sending us messages—in a nonverbal voice--some of destruction and some of hope.
My journey includes learning how to listen beyond the fray of human discontent. My vision includes welcoming all types of humans and allowing all living creatures to live in their niches. My work is to listen to the Holy One who blesses all species, and doesn’t favor humans over others. I need to listen to many who are saying, “I can’t breathe.” The needs of dolphins, redwoods and rhinoceros are interwoven with my needs. The survival of the planet is the same story as Noah and the Ark; as the Navajo Changing Woman; as condors that soar in the Andes; as sea turtles that march up the beach to lay eggs. I don’t despair. It’s our story; it’s a love story.
I bend and learn in the face of climate disturbance. . I trust in the universal power. I do not understand the sturdy dandelion, but I listen to the wind that scatters its tiny helicopter seeds. And I smile.
I was in Ireland all of 20 days and I've been puzzling "why is the human race so violent and yet so loving?" How can this be? I can't find a kinder warmer people than the ones I met on Dublin streets. The Irish seem more active in their churches than other Europeans. Yet my time here has reverberated with violence: a Malaysian plane shot down; killing willy-nilly in Gaza/ Iraq; plus a local homicide/suicide in the Irish news. It's troubling because the AVPers in Dublin from over 40 countries (including violent places like Iraq, Mexico, Ukraine, Israel, Sudan) are working for peace in these countries. They share powerful stories of peace at work.
So I've been trying to learn from the sea-washed eyes of the Irish. Here I've seen that anger and frustration don’t necessarily lead to violence. Did you know that? The driving force behind war and murder is being disrespected. To feel shame is so degrading, that it's better to eliminate the other than to endure such pain.
Ireland has its rich history of misery and glory.
First, it seems that the Celts who were Christians in the 4th century in Ireland did well including their native rituals/symbols. And there's signs of Ireland's symbols of divinity (or otherworldliness) everywhere. Ireland has 40,000 prehistoric stone circles, of ring forts which are illegal to destroy. Plus belief in fairies seem alive.) The Anglo Normans invaded Ireland in the Eleventh century. Then through trade and intermarriage they became "more Irish than the Irish."
Another prolific sign all over Ireland is the appealing Celtic cross, a cross encircled by the sun. Some see the Celtic cross as a compass used by those planted so close to the sea. The interweave of the Celtic knot is a masterpiece befitting of a sailor. I saw a 10th century church where the baptism font included the Celtic knot and two stags alongside the cross. So when a culture lives with respect, such symbols of pagans and Catholics seem to thrive side by side. How is it that Christians on the mainland had such massacres as the crusades? Notice that the witch burnings for 5 centuries barely grazed Ireland. Religious tolerance was inculcated early.
Brigit the Irish Saint and St. Patrick in the 5th century modeled amazing cooperation. In the Trias Thaumaturga (extensive Irish history). Brigit's founded many churches and was beloved in the Diocese of Elphin. Her friendship with Saint Patrick is acclaimed from the Book of Armagh: "inter sanctum Patricium Brigitanque Hibernesium columpnas amicitia caritatis inerat tanta, ut unum cor consiliumque haberent unum. Christus per illum illamque virtutes multas peregit".
Between St. Patrick and Brigid, the pillars of the Irish people, there was so great a friendship of charity that they had but one heart and one mind. Through him and through her Christ performed many great works.
But we have heard of the wars between the Irish and the English. The fight between the dragon and the lion: the green and the orange. I won’t say more of the troubled time in Northern Ireland when Protestant and Catholic fought. “And the tears of the people ran together.” The official peace accord was signed in 1992, but a remarkable turning of the tide happened in 1976. Mairead Corrigan and Betty Williams organized peace marches in Northern Ireland after 3 children of Corrigan’s sister were killed by a gunman in a car. Tens of thousands turned out: Catholics and Protestants marching together. Corrigan said,
“We reject the use of the bomb and the bullet and dedicate ourselves to building a just and peaceful society. We offered love, not condemnation and self-righteousness, we offered forgiveness and reconciliation, and a vision of a Northern Irish society based of equality, fairness, and justice. If we want to reap the harvest of peace and justice in the future, we have to sow seeds of nonviolence here, in the present.”
Joan Baez wrote about Mairead Corrigan, "The breath of God ran through her like a fair summer breeze. She was endlessly brave, going into the homes of ‘the enemy’ unarmed. God bless the brave women of Ireland who, for a brief but exceptional moment in time, waged mass nonviolent warfare in one of the most violent times in the world."
Six inmate AVP facilitators shared their personal journeys:
“Though we may be in the gutters some of us still look at the stars”
“In the past the people were afraid to approach me because of my reputation of violence, since I became an AVP facilitator people find it easier to approach me when looking for help with their own problems”
“I came to prison ….. with a life sentence for murder……..a year later I did my first AVP workshop…..it taught me to turn my back on violence…..it gave me the tools to change my life….it taught me a lot about empathy…which makes it less likely to be violent towards somebody. This is probably the most important thing AVP has taught me and if I can teach that to someone else I have done my job”
“it taught me to be creative….I write a lot of poetry now…..I couldn’t live without AVP….thank AVP for making me the man I am today.” Finally one inmate concluded with the words of John O’Donoghue:
“May you realize that you are never alone, that your soul in its brightness and belonging connects you intimately with the rhythm of the universe.”
I am your daughter. You have suckled me throughout my life. There is milk and fruits and honey for me to enjoy. You are larger than the prairie, more rugged than any mountaintops, more forgiving than a quilt of snow. You are expansive like the universe, yet tender and dear like a sister’s embrace. I trust you completely. For ours is a wordless love, an intangible working relationship. I am so grateful, and I show my gratefulness to you by living as fully as possible. I show respect to the elements: earth, air, fire and water. I will not take you for granted: the promise of you living with me is pretty much a forever promise. Some days I show my respect by not capitulating to depression. Some days I make myself can food, or to stop buying anything in plastic. Sometimes I spend time working through my prejudices and resentments. But most days I love you by laughing at myself, and making room to dance.
I know my work is important. I am like a blade of grass, or like one ant in the Sahara desert. I do not doubt that what I do is valuable. But in the last year, I’ve sensed that our loving relationship has changed. You need me now, more than in the first half of my life. I have heard your anger and your pleading. You have tapped my shoulder, and I must enlist myself in your service.
What does that mean? What am I to do? In my youth our relationship was happiest when I was sailing, or chasing horses, or fishing for crabs, or building forts. I like caring for birds and some herds. I live in the city now. I love trees and orchards.
I am working hard, and my attitude is improving. For half my life I’ve been working to stop human violence. Now I’m asked to stop violence to our waters, landmass and air. It’s hard for me to change my time commitments. I need to keep a hopeful vision front and center; I need to listen to signs, dreams and positive actions out of unsuspecting places. If I listen to those only wanting to stop KXL pipeline or stop mining or fracking or this or that, it’s depressing. As for the environmental movement, there’s a lot of fear out there. I refuse to let fear rule my actions. Please help me to be a community builder, not a wet blanket with other environmentalists.
You are asking me to change my life. I need to change in drastic ways, but healthy ways. I know I will be a better person, and I’ll enjoy myself more. I have an intimation of the changes needed:
Precious One, you are Mother, Wholeness and Ever-Changing Trickster. I know humans are not a big part of the picture. We are an arrogant race. I love you and I know that others love you as dear as Life.
May we grow in wisdom and in harmony with your amazing elemental soaring sensational Planet. Yours truly, Minga