Wars, Religion, and Peace

The Rev. Bailey Smith, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, said: "With all due respect to those dear people, my God, God Almighty does not hear the prayer of a Jew."

Emerson said: "Peace can not be achieved through violence, but can be achieved through understanding."

Robert Kennedy once said: "Every time a man stands up for an ideal, or acts to improve the lot of others, or strikes out against injustice, he sends forth a tiny ripple of hope … those ripples build a current that can sweep down the walls of oppression and resistance. "

It is often believed suicide bombers that their motivation for going into war is to receive a reward in heaven. But an American, Sergeant Jones, had a different strategy with new recruits.

It was not long before Captain Smith noticed that Sergeant Jones was having a staggeringly high success rate, selling insurance to nearly 100% of the recruits he advised. Instead of asking him about this, the Captain stood at the back of the room and listened to Jones's sales pitch.

Jones explained the basics of GI Insurance to the new recruits, and then said, "If you are killed in a battle and have GI Insurance, the government has to pay $ 200,000 to your beneficiaries But if you do not have GI insurance and get killed in the battle, the government only has to pay a maximum of $ 6,000

"Now, "

Today, I want to look hard at the connection between religion, war and peace." When do we look at the reports from Syria, it It is so easy to get discouraged, is not it? What a tragedy!

Like you I have witnessed the funeral of our military who have died from roadside bombs in Afghanistan and Iraq; say them home without arms or legs, or psychologically damaged, suffering from PTSD. Their amazing courage to go despite all that they have endured is inspiring. I know about the tragedy of families who have lost loved ones, families who have lost father or mother to war, and the little children left alone with only a picture to greet them when they get up every day.

as you are, of the suicide rate among our veterans. Daily, we see the horrors of war on our television news casts. It affects us either directly or indirectly.

We also live in a time of unprecedented gun-related violence in America. The President was giving a good bread-and-butter speech to his State of the Union address this week, when suddenly he soared into greatness when he asked Congress to unite to do something about gun violence. He singled out those who had come to the state of the Union from the Sandy Hook massacre and other killings, including Gabby Giffords, who touchingly was trying to clap her hands together but could not. He pleaded for Congress to vote their consciences.

He says that there are things about religions that do not necessarily mean that religion is not a necessity. cause war but help to facilitate it.

1. He faults all major religions for having sacred texts that portray violence approvingly, whether done by God or some heroic figure. The war's success is guaranteed by God, and the imitation of that behavior then becomes approved. For example, when I was a boy I loved the story of David and Goliath. I also thought that Joshua was a good guy when he defeated the natives who already lived in the so-called Promised Land. Today, I have other opinions.

2. Religions have rituals or prayers that are supposed to enlist the help of God in war, which teach that those fighting are fighting for a holy cause. Think of prayer before battle. Remember the Crusades, when even children were sent to battle, or even a football game in the NFL where one side prays to defeat the other.

3. If you lose your life in a Holy War, God will compensate you in the next life. Martyrdom is the highest mark of religious devotion, as every suicide bomber knows.

4. Religions teach that their adherents are the chosen ones, with rights and privileges, especially involving a right to land ownership. And these folks go to war if they feel persecuted, either in the past or present, and are unable to get justice, or if there are enough of them to unify politically into a nation state, they will seek power through war, especially if the land is sacred or a "Promised Land." Nationalism that is linked to fighting for land and family then becomes a religious duty.

5. Political or spiritual leaders come from an upper class and see in the religious teaching a way to maintain their power. The Queen of England is also the head of the Church, the Pope of a nation state.

6. Priests and religious leaders are willing to use secular power to institutionalize or enforce correct doctrine, worship and ethical practices. Think of the Taliban here preventing girls from going to school or proponents of Proposition 8 here in California, which banned gay marriage

7. States fail to uphold minority rights and give in to majority faith practices that would weaken or remove minority rights. Think of the American deep south before Martin Luther King, Jr. Or South Africa and Apartheid, which was justified on religious grounds.

8. Different faiths live close to each other, but their teaching and practices are seen to be incompatible. Think of Northern Ireland, or Israel and Palestine, or Bosnia.

9. A religious group sees its teaching as universal and is therefore intolerant of other perspectives, either in or outside its tradition. Although less so today, this was the history of the Catholic Church for a very long time.

10. A faith's influence is limited to the spiritual realm only. Its teachings are considered irrelevant to politics. Therefore, a different value system can be used if necessary without the interference of the faith group. Think of the established church in Germany, which largely ignored the treatment of the Jews in history or by the Nazis at the time of the Second World War, or people of faith who go to church on Sunday, mosque on Fridays, or the synagogue on Fridays, and then do whatever they like for the other six days of the week because their faith is compartmentalized.

Whenever we can identify one or more of these links to religion and violence, history tells us that we are on the wrong track . The separation of church and state in America came to address these problems. Whenever this separation is firmly in place, both religions and the state thrive. When a lineage gets blurred, violence becomes more likely.

In a famous Armistice Day sermon, Harry Emerson Fosdick, knowing these links to war and religions, said: "I renounce war for its consequences, for the lies it lives on and propagates, for the undying hatred it arouses, for the dictatorships it puts in place of democracy, for the starvation that stalks after it. I renounce war, and never again, directly or indirectly, will sanction or support another. "

The problem for me in a statement like this is what to do when we are attacked by another nation state? Do we sit by and let it happen? St. Augustine, Thomas Aquinas, and modern proponents of the Just War theory teach that the war is waged in self-defense, or in defense of another.

In 1993, the U.S. The Catholic Conference said: " JUST WAR THEORY TEACHES:" Force can be used only to correct a grave, public evil, ie, aggression or massive violation of the basic human rights of whole populations. THAT THERE MUST BE:

Right intention: Correcting a suffered wrong is considered a right intention, while material gain or maintaining economies is not

Probability of success: Arms may not be used in a futile case or in cases where disproportionate measures are required to achieve success.

Last resort: Force may be used only after all peaceful and viable alternatives have been seriously

I am very glad that the Catholic Bishops and others have worked on the ethics of war. Imagine America at war without any ethics at all. You might want to argue that our ethics do not need to be overhauled. But the alternative to no ethics would be to ignore just war principles, and that would be horrific.

The current debate on drone use is an example. Is it proportionate? Is it used in self defense? Does it avoid, wherever possible, civilian deaths? For today's wars often kill more civilians than soldiers, which offends just war theory.

In the midst of all these questions stands one man in particular who is highly regarded by all religious traditions. A Prophet to Islam, a rabbi in Judaism who, though rejected for Messiahship, stands as a great ethical teacher; someone who New Age thinking greatly respects; someone who the Buddha would rejoice with in their common ethics; someone whose teachings have been incorporated in Hinduism: Jesus of Nazareth took a different course than all the major religions, including the one that developed from his own teachings. In doing so, he has influenced them all.

He said, "Happy are the peacemakers, for they will be called the sons of God. a tooth. ' But I say this to you: Offer the wicked man no resistance. You have heard in the past, 'You must love your friends but hate your enemies.' But I say this to you: Love your enemies, and pray for those who persecute you … for your Father in heaven causes the sun to rise on bad men as well as good men, and his rain fall on the honest and dishonest If you only need to save your greetings for your friends, you are doing anything extraordinary, never repay the evil for the evil. he drinks … Resist evil, and conquer it with good. "

Now this teaching, considering that it came out of the context of the Middle East, is extraordinary indeed! It can not be used to justify war, but it does call for peace whoever will hear it. The peace envisioned is personal first, and then it can be extrapolated into larger spheres. So does it work on the streets in Oakland?

Interestingly, nonviolence does work. Do you want to work on the streets in Oakland? It worked in South Africa. It worked in India with Gandhi, who read from Jesus' playbook. It worked in America with Martin Luther King, Jr. It is the gold standard still today about how to treat other human beings non violently.

Making peace with any enemy is a hard work, and sometimes it is simply not possible. But I find that trying to make peace with an enemy is far more enlightened than preserving or escalating conflict, because if we succeed in making an enemy to our friend, we create holy ground.

Reaching for the enemy must be done one person at a time, until a tipping point is reached.

In Bogota in 2001 on Independence Day, The Mennonites, who have particularly embraced the teaching of Jesus on nonviolence, were gathered on a street corner because they had been denied presence near the Congressional Building for their peace protest. They watched the dignitaries drive by in their limos. SUVs stuffed with soldiers drove by. The protestors sang and held periods of silence as tanks began to arrive.

Their message went on: "Peace comes through peacemaking, not war-making."

The soldiers grew more restive. More tanks arrived.

A gentle pastor began to pray, and more riot police walked up to him to create a blockade between him and the crowd who had gathered. He called for justice where injustice reigns, freedom for the oppressed, respect for life over lust for money and power. He prayed for the return of the land to the peasants, the security for Colombia's poor who suffered so much, and wisdom for legislators who had not done justice, loved mercy or walked humbly. He asked the legislators to follow the historical Jesus' teaching on reconciliation, nonviolence and love.

His wife had all this time been eying a particular policeman whose eyes indicated another reality. Disobeying all the rules of nonviolence she walked up to him, looked him in the eyes, and put her hand gently on his arm. And he whispered, "May God bless you!"

Do you want to bring peace?

Bob Filner, a Jew, had been taught by his parents that racism is the number one evil in the world. He was taught that it was his task to fight racism wherever he found it. As a teenager he was drawn to Martin Luther King, Jr., his speeches and writing.

Bob was doing his final exams on Mother's Day in 1961, and on that day a Greyhound bus was run off the road and set on fire in Anniston, Alabama, with its Freedom Rider passengers being almost beaten to death. Bob decided that he could make a difference if he too became Freedom Rider. So he completed his exams and then immediately went to Nashville for several days of training in nonviolence.

Then with four others he got on a Greyhound and headed south. Authorities would not let the bus stop in Alabama, so they went to Mississippi. In Jackson they were greeted by a crowd of hundreds. The four of them got off the bus to desegregate the Greyhound Bus Lobby, the coffee shop and the restrooms. The police descended and charged them with "inciting a riot" and took them off to the Jackson Jail. They were sentenced to six months and, because all the cells were full, they were sent to occupy the death row cells in the Mississippi State Penitentiary.

Most of them served two months before being released on appeal. Many were beaten and subjected to psychological torture.

In 1961 hundreds of Freedom Riders were incarcerated.

But they survived with dignity, and their lives were changed forever. Their actions stirred the conscience of America, and the entire century-old legal structure of segregation came tumbling down. Bob had changed history. One person acting on his conscience is a very powerful force.

The officers who arrested him would have never done so if they knew that he was a Congressman or the Mayor of San Diego. You say, "But in 1961 he was not a Congressman or the Mayor of San Diego." And that is right. But that was what he was just a few years later, so the seeds were all there in 1961 when he was a teenager. The police did not know who they were holding …

None of us knows what we can do or what we may be called upon to do. But know this: If you want to act on the basis of your personal conscience on any matter to make the world a more peaceful place, you become a force that changes history.

This is what the United Religions Initiative and the Cooperation Circle of The Interfaith Experience are about-one person at a time; for we teach and model unconditional love and building bridges between faiths.

We know that this is likely to be hard, that the road frequently calls us uphill. But Abraham Lincoln once said, "We must not be enemies, although passion may have been strained, but it is not the case that the passion can be strained, it must not break our bonds of affection … with malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, Let us strive to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds, and his widow and his orphan-to do all that can achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace between ourselves and with all nations. " (Lincoln's Second Inaugural Address, March 4, 1865)

So be it!

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