Wednesday, April 19, 2006

Breaking the Mold

Weighed in last time about non-violent self-sacrifice as the heartbeat of Easter.

Here are some folks breaking the current Christian cultural mold and busting out with something new:

Every Church a Peace Church

A bunch of Mennonites, Brethren and Quakers started a non-profit organization/movement called Every Church a Peace Church a few years back.

They’re dedicated to “the formation of new peace churches and the transformation of "war-justifying" churches into peace churches, so that the world will be turned toward peace as churches live and teach as Jesus lived and taught.”

At this point they’ve got about 20 churches in the fold and they’re organizin', educatin' and mobilizin' key folks in traditional "just war" churches and helping catalyze new church plants dedicated to seeking justice through non-violent self-sacrifice.

The traditional Peace Churches--including the Mennonites, Anabaptists, Quakers, Brethren and the Amish--are pretty brittle shells of their former selves these days.

But at one time they had big time influence on American culture. The movement to abolish slavery came straight out of the heart of those groups and they were instrumental in the Civil Rights struggle.

Revitalizing that tradition in some new form--which is what these ECAPC folks are trying to do--would do nothing but good for the discussion among religious people about the use of violence.

The Emerging Church

The Emerging Church is the most common pop name for a large and increasingly influential ‘movement’ of ‘post-modern’ congregations all over the world.

Basically, it’s a new movement that discards older models of Christianity and seeks to create a fresh, post-western expression of gettin' saved and doin' good. I’m pretty sure this is going to be a big old 'who's your daddy' spiritual movement in the years to come.

You can slice and dice The Emerging Church lots of ways, but one of the most important characteristics is its identification with the powerless rather than the powerful.

Most traditional forms of Christianity eventually (quickly) become highly identified with the politically and economically and culturally powerful. Basically, the more a Christian tradition becomes identified with those groups the more it becomes willing to support state sponsored violence in a wide variety of situations. That only makes sense since the powerful wield that big state sword.

Because Emergents tend to identify with the relatively powerless, many of 'em lean toward pacifism or embrace it fully.

Non-violent models of change are in the DNA of The Emerging Church That could have big time implications over the next few decades.

Christian Peacemaker Teams

I love these guys. I'm doing something else important right now, but eventually, who knows? I may end up spending my "golden years" with 'em. Who wouldn't want to see an arthritic old fart on the front lines in Uzbekistan? :^)

You probably heard of one of the CPT members, Tom Fox, who was abducted and executed by stupid religious people in Baghdad recently. CPT has become a worldwide and influential phenomenon. Here’s what's officially what:

Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT) arose from a call for Christians to devote the same discipline and self-sacrifice to nonviolent peacemaking that armies devote to war. Enlisting the whole church in an organized, nonviolent alternative to war, today CPT places violence-reduction teams in crisis situations and militarized areas around the world at the invitation of local peace and human rights workers. CPT embraces the vision of unarmed intervention waged by committed peacemakers ready to risk injury and death in an attempt to transform lethal conflict through the nonviolent power of God’s truth and love.

Their strategy includes:

• skilled, international teams that work effectively to support local efforts toward nonviolent peacemaking;
• “getting in the way” of injustice through direct nonviolent intervention, public witness and reporting to the larger world community;
• engaging congregations, meetings and support groups at home to play a key advocacy role with policy makers.

I’ve often wondered what would happen if 5% of Christian churches around the world got with non-violent self-sacrifice and sent missos to join a movement like CPT. Riffing on Martin Luther King Jr. and Gandhi but this time directly against warfare.

Many missos like that would get 6 feet deep quick. But big numbers die in your garden variety war anyway.

If you're as serious about peace as an army is about war it makes sense you'd be willing to lay down your life.

Why is that idea so strange to so many people when dying for US or Chinese or Russian strategic interests isn't?

Soon: Warfare wise or whack in the 21st century?


Blogger jon said...

Mobilizing tens or hundreds of thousands of non-violent Christians in order to interfere with and ultimately stop a violent war, though it may cost many of their lives, has always been a big dream of mine. I was roundly criticized for mentioning my desire to use a strategy similar to this in Sudan recently. I don't know how it would work, but I deeply feel that we can't stand back and wait. And we know that violence is not the answer.

7:29 AM  
Blogger Wordcat said...

Amen, Jon. If you get something like that going lemme know and I'll be the first to join you :^)

2:52 PM  
Blogger 3wishes said...

I admire the thought. I do have one question. When you get caught, thrown in cave or worse, do you want to be saved? If you do, will you then be polite and thank the young men who save you? Or will you pretend that they didnt save your life and be rude like your predecessors did a few weeks ago?

2:56 PM  
Anonymous Alex said...

I think all the approaches you mention are fresh and exciting (though I do wonder how "biblical" they actually are - not that such a distinction matters that much to me anymore. But granted, such readings do find support in the texts, though I remain convinced that "fundamentalist" interpretations have played a pivotal role from the beginning.)

And anyway, it's not as if the last 5000 years of recorded human history shower much glory on the "using violence to prevent violence" theme. I find myself hard pressed to come up with an idea that has failed more spectacularly in almost every conceivable situation. Though I will hold out for situations where self-defense and the protection of the innocent morally requires the use of force, even knowing that violence breeds more violence.

5:23 PM  
Blogger Matthew Pascal said...

Ya, I love the CPT folks as well. I think they are leading the way in pro-actively seeking non-violent alternatives to war, etc. In a society were so many 'socially active' types are talking about this stuff and harshly criticising the government, etc., the CPT folks are actually out there walkin' the walk instead of just talkin' the talk, and I greatly admire that.

Hey, I'd love to see you become "an arthritic old fart on the front lines in Uzbekistanan" :-)

7:39 PM  
Blogger Wordcat said...

Give me more to go on 3. Sounds like you're on to somebody with bad manners in Iraq.

I hear you alex. Have you read Sam Harris' "The End of Faith"? Great book.

Yeah, MP, I'm tired too of the armchair activists.

9:23 PM  
Anonymous heidi said...

I think what 3wishes is referring to is that in early reports it was said that the three CPT members, who had been in captivity and then rescued by a multi-national unit of anti-kidnap soldiers, were not thankful enough for being rescued. In an official statement (see link below, along with an addenda more clearly thanking the soldiers involved in the rescue) CPT leadership said, "We believe that the illegal occupation of Iraq by Multinational Forces is the root cause of the insecurity which led to this kidnapping and so much pain and suffering in Iraq." Much was made of this as a sign of CPT's ungratefulness, along with the fact that they did not cooperate with special armed services members during the rescue operation, instead continuing to press for diplomatic resolution.

However, I must say that I am very impressed that the CPT did not feel the need to weaken their stance against military action, even after having been (in some way) the beneficiary of some of this action. It is true conviction that does not back down in the face of such pressure, and I believe that the CPT men may honestly have preferred to remain in captivity longer if it could have been worked out diplomatically. They have the understanding, I think, that being alive is not the entire purpose of existence, and that there are ideals worth dying for, and that sometimes it is in suffering and even death that a greater good can be found...

1:05 PM  
Blogger Wordcat said...

thanks Heidi. Welcome to the mix :^)

I'm up to speed with you now 3. Well, if I were in that situation I'd give those brave young men a hug and a big thank you. I hope that the folks who were rescued did that on a personal and human level. If not, bad form and bad manners. Given the kind of people CPT folks are, its hard to imagine they didn't give a personal thanks, but maybe so. I hope not.

But I'm tracking with you too, Heidi. I agree that CPT people, from the point of view of their committment and policy, were ready to be kidnapped and die and have been clearly opposed to the invasion and occupation of Iraq from the get go. So no surprise that their leaders would make an announcement like that or that they would have refused to cooperate with the military. I don't view that as ungratefulness--it's simply their policy and what they're about.

2:04 PM  
Blogger Wordcat said...

One more quick addendum...

I do remember at least one military guy saying he disliked groups like CPT because "keeping them safe puts our guys in danger." Understandable from a military point of view, but again, a misunderstanding of CPT. They're not asking to be kept safe. They're in harms way to dramatize the craziness of the whole thing and are willing to sacrifice to make that point.

2:09 PM  
Blogger 3wishes said...

Thank-you Heidi for the clarity :) I do hope this new church gets their message out. I just cant help but think that men who keep their women in bags,mutilate women and support "honour killings" will get the message.

4:12 PM  
Blogger Wordcat said...

I think you've got your finger on the real deal here 3.

Lots of people seem beyond the influence of the best of reason and religious faith. Nothing new in that. Every generation gets a violent and gut wrenching refresher course.

Guess the question is how to deal with that.

9:23 PM  

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