Infant child OK in foster care.
Happy New Year 2018.
Image from the Des Moines, Iowa, Catholic Worker newsletter.
Image from the Des Moines, Iowa, Catholic Worker newsletter.
By AMY SULLIVAN DEC. 15, 2017
To hear the Christian right tell it, President Trump should be a candidate for sainthood — that is, if evangelicals believed in saints.
“Never in my lifetime have we had a Potus willing to take such a strong outspoken stand for the Christian faith like Donald Trump,” tweeted Franklin Graham, the son of the evangelist Billy Graham. The Dallas pastor Robert Jeffress sees a divine hand at work: “God intervened in our election and put Donald Trump in the Oval Office for a great purpose.”
Testimonials like this confound critics who label conservative evangelical figures like Mr. Graham and Mr. Jeffress hypocrites for embracing a man who is pretty much the human embodiment of the question “What would Jesus not do?”
But what those critics don’t recognize is that the nationalistic, race-baiting, fear-mongering form of politics enthusiastically practiced by Mr. Trump and Roy Moore in Alabama is central to a new strain of American evangelicalism. This emerging religious worldview — let’s call it “Fox evangelicalism” — is preached from the pulpits of conservative media outlets like Fox News. It imbues secular practices like shopping for gifts with religious significance and declares sacred something as worldly and profane as gun culture.
Journalists and scholars have spent decades examining the influence of conservative religion on American politics, but we largely missed the impact conservative politics was having on religion itself. As a progressive evangelical and journalist covering religion, I’m as guilty as any of not noticing what was happening. We kept asking how white conservative evangelicals could support Mr. Trump, who luxuriates in divisive rhetoric and manages only the barest veneer of religiosity. But that was never the issue. Fox evangelicals don’t back Mr. Trump despite their beliefs, but because of them.
Consider the so-called War on Christmas, which the president has made a pet crusade. Mr. Trump has been sharing Christmas greetings since October, well before decorations had even shown up in most stores, when the Values Voter Summit crowd gave him a standing ovation for declaring, “We’re saying ‘Merry Christmas’ again!” He has spent November and December taking victory laps, telling crowds at political rallies in Utah and Florida that “Christmas is back, better and bigger than ever before.”
Every one of Mr. Trump’s predecessors declared “Merry Christmas,” too — including Barack Obama, whose message at last year’s Christmas tree-lighting ceremony was virtually indistinguishable from Mr. Trump’s. What matters to Fox evangelicals, though, is not that Mr. Trump observes Christmas but that he casts himself as the defender of the Christian holiday.
From the beginning, the War on Christmas was a homegrown Fox News cause, introduced by the so-named 2005 book by John Gibson, a former Fox News host, and promoted annually by Bill O’Reilly. But it was never really a religious argument. Mr. O’Reilly and company weren’t occupied with defending belief in the Virgin Birth or worrying that the celebration of Christ’s birth had become too commercialized.
In an irony appreciated by anyone who remembers the original anti-consumption, anti-Santa meaning of the “Reason for the Season” slogan, Fox and allies like the American Family Association focused on getting more Christmas into stores and shopping malls. For more than a decade, Fox News hosts have kept viewers updated on which stores were “in the Christmas spirit,” and the American Family Association, which operates nearly 200 radio stations in the United States, maintains its very own “naughty and nice” list for retailers.
As a result, the War on Christmas has moved one of the holiest Christian days out of the church and into the secular realm. That may suit conservative activists who promote Christian nationalism and want to see Christianity officially dominate the public sphere. But at a time when a new Pew Research Center study shows that only about half of those Americans who celebrate Christmas plan to do so as a religious holiday, the War on Christmas may be damaging Christian witness by elevating performative secular practices.
These days, even though Mr. O’Reilly declared “victory” last year in the War on Christmas, Fox News still gives the supposed controversy wall-to-wall coverage and has folded it into the network’s us-versus-them, nationalist programming. The regular Fox News viewer, whether or not he is a churchgoer, takes in a steady stream of messages that conflate being white and conservative and evangelical with being American.
The power of that message may explain the astonishing findings of a survey released this month by LifeWay Research, a Christian organization based in Nashville. LifeWay’s researchers developed questions meant to get at both the way Americans self-identify religiously and their theological beliefs. What they discovered was that while one-quarter of Americans consider themselves to be “evangelical,” less than half of that group actually holds traditional evangelical beliefs. For others, “evangelical” effectively functions as a cultural label, unmoored from theological meaning.
But if the conservative media has created a category of Fox evangelical converts, it has also influenced the way a whole generation of churchgoing evangelicals thinks about God and faith. On no issue is this clearer than guns.
In fall 2015, I visited Trinity Bible College, an Assemblies of God-affiliated school in North Dakota, to join the conservative evangelical students there for a screening of “The Armor of Light,” a documentary by the filmmaker Abigail Disney. The film followed the pastor and abortion opponent Rob Schenck on his quest to convince fellow evangelicals — the religious demographic most opposed to gun restrictions — that pro-life values are incompatible with an embrace of unrestricted gun access. I found Mr. Schenck compelling, and my editor had sent me to see if his target audience bought the arguments.
It did not.
As two dozen of us gathered for a post-screening discussion, I was both astonished and troubled, as a fellow evangelical, by the visceral sense of fear that gripped these young adults. As a child in the Baptist church, I had been taught to be vigilant about existential threats to my faith. But these students in a town with a population of some 1,200 saw the idea of a home invasion or an Islamic State attack that would require them to take a human life in order to save others as a certainty they would face, not a hypothetical.
These fears are far removed from the reality of life in North Dakota, a state that saw a total of 21 homicides in 2015. Of those deaths, seven were caused by firearms, and only three were committed by someone unknown to the victim. Yet the students around me agreed unreservedly with Wayne LaPierre, chief executive of the National Rifle Association, who was seen in the film asserting that “in the world around us, there are terrorists, home invaders, drug cartels, carjackers, knockout gamers, rapers, haters, campus killers, airport killers, shopping mall killers.”
This worldview is familiar to anyone who has spent time watching Fox News, where every day viewers are confronted with threats to their way of life. It’s also profoundly un-Christian. One of the most consistent messages of the Bible is the exhortation “Do not be afraid!” Before young evangelicals can read, we memorize verses reminding us to “be strong and courageous” and “trust in the Lord.” “Fear,” says Mr. Schenck in the documentary, “should not be a controlling element in the life of a Christian.”
Fear and distrust of outsiders — in conflict with numerous biblical teachings to “welcome the stranger” — also explain Fox evangelicals’ strong support for the Trump administration’s efforts to bar refugees and restrict travel to the United States from several majority-Muslim nations. After Mr. Trump’s initial executive orders during his first week in office, more than 100 evangelical leaders, including the head of the National Association of Evangelicals, published a full-page ad in The Washington Post denouncing the refugee ban and urging the president to reconsider. But those leaders didn’t speak for most white evangelicals, three-quarters of whom told Pew pollsters they supported the refugee and travel bans.
That disconnect underscores the challenge many pastors face in trying to shepherd congregants who are increasingly alienated from traditional Gospel teachings. “A pastor has about 30 to 40 minutes each week to teach about Scripture,” said Jonathan Martin, an Oklahoma pastor and popular evangelical writer. “They’ve been exposed to Fox News potentially three to four hours a day.”
It’s meaningful, Mr. Martin says, that scions of the religious right like Jerry Falwell Jr. are not pastors like their fathers. “There was a lot I didn’t agree with him on, but I’m confident that it was important to Senior” — Jerry Falwell — “that he grounded his beliefs in Scripture,” Mr. Martin said. “Now the Bible’s increasingly irrelevant. It’s just ‘us versus them.’”
The result is a malleable religious identity that can be weaponized not just to complain about department stores that hang “Happy Holidays” banners, but more significantly, in support of politicians like Mr. Trump or Mr. Moore — and of virtually any policy, so long as it is promoted by someone Fox evangelicals consider on their side of the culture war.
“It explains how much evangelicals have moved the goal post,” said Mr. Martin. “If there’s not a moral theology or ethic to it, but it’s about playing for the right team, you can do anything and still be on the right side.”
Hate in America has become commonplace. What can we do to stop the hate? The Southern Poverty Law Center has come up with a easy-to-read guide that offers useful and do-able ideas. You may download the printed copy of the booklet HERE . You may also watch the brief video version, FOUND HERE . Either way, it’s important that we do what we can to stop the current insanity.
In the words of Nelson Mandela, “No one is born hating another person because of the colour of his skin, or his background, or his religion. People must learn to hate, and if they can learn to hate, they can be taught to love, for love comes more naturally to the human heart than its opposite.”
Once again, we find ourselves experiencing pain before which words seem insufficient.
I have previously addressed victims of terrorist acts; I have addressed their families; I have even addressed those who may have had an opportunity, even in some small way, to advocate for or support those most vulnerable.
This time, however, I feel a need to address those who perpetrate these crimes.
You are loved. The violent and deadly crimes you perpetrate are abhorrent and detestable, but you are loved.
You are loved by God, your creator, for he created you in his image and according to his likeness, and placed you on this earth for much greater things, according to his plan for all humankind. You are loved by me and millions like me, not because of what you do, but what you are capable of as that wonderful creation of God, who has created us with a shared humanity. You are loved by me and millions like me because I, and we, believe in transformation.
Transformation is core to the Christian message, for throughout history we have seen many transformed from being those who persecuted Christ himself and Christians to those who went on to live with grace. We believe in transformation because, on a daily basis, we are personally transformed from a life of human weakness and sinfulness to a life of power and righteousness. We believe in transformation because the whole message of the cross and resurrection of our Lord Jesus Christ is to take humanity from the bonds of sin and death to a liberation in goodness and everlasting life. Our world is certainly suffering from the brokenness of our humanity, but it is our responsibility, personally and collectively, to encourage and inspire ourselves and all those whom we meet along our path to a life of virtue and holiness and the love and forgiveness of all.
This, of course, is far from the reaction that many may have expected, but the Christian message is just that: to look at our world as through the eyes of God, who loves all and who desires that all be liberated through him.
I grieve, certainly for those who have lost their lives, for those who mourn and for those who will continue to be adversely affected by these tragic experiences; but I also grieve for a young man who sees it not only justifiable, but glorious, to take the lives of other young men and women and deprive his and their families of enjoying them as they grow and mature.
No family should lose a son in this way, even if they are partially or wholly responsible for his flawed ideology. This loss might be to that ideology, to incarceration as a result of his actions and choices or, in the worst case, in taking his own life, along with others, regardless of the great cost to those left behind. In the same way, no family deserves to lose children and members who merely go about their day to enjoy their God-given right to exist, whether it be by attending a concert, taking a pilgrimage to a monastery, simply walking through city streets, or in any other way.
I also grieve for those who considered it a victory to board a bus filled with pilgrims and execute children, women and men purely for refusing to denounce their faith, as we saw happen to Coptic Christians in Menia only yesterday [May 26].
What is increasingly obvious is that many of these attacks come about due to a loss of the meaning and comprehension of the sanctity of life, our own or that of others; so join me in praying for the brokenness of our world that causes parents to lose their children, children to lose their parents and humankind to lose the humanity for which it was created.
What is important is not that this message be read, but that it be communicated; not that it be accepted, but that it be understood as another perspective; and not that it should be fully embraced, but that it may create at least a shadow of a doubt in the minds of those intent on inflicting harm and pain.
His Grace Bishop Angaelos is the general bishop of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the United Kingdom.
An Official Statement from Pax Christi USA
Hate begets hate. Violence begets violence.
The years of war and the recent tragedies in Syria are heartbreaking. The tortuous deaths caused by chemical weapons are another example of the depths of human depravity.
War and preparations for war accomplish nothing. The President’s decision to violate international law by this act of aggression, along with a lack of consultation from Congress, to launch missile attacks on Syria in retaliation for the use of chemical weapons, adds to the years of crushing hardship experienced by the Syrian people. The solution to war is not more war. Retaliation will not bring justice or peace but only perpetuates death and injustice.
The trauma of war creates short and long term consequences that are the deepest pain human beings can experience. The immediate horror of losing loved ones to the long-term consequences that destroy the bodies, spirits, and psyches of human beings are tragic for individuals and for society. The environmental impact of war is passed on for future generations.
Pope Francis said, “I appeal to the conscience of those with political responsibility both locally and internationally to cease this tragedy and bring relief to that dear population that for too long has been exhausted by war.”
Pax Christi USA believes that peace comes with justice. Voters with political responsibility have the great ability to influence situations and policies that create justice, and consequently, peace, and clearly, sending drones and missiles into Syria is a decision that promotes neither justice nor peace.
Pax Christi USA deplores the three executive orders President Trump has recently signed. One is in favor of resurrecting the Dakota Access pipeline, another in favor of the Keystone XL pipeline, and another for advancing the deportation of immigrants and the
construction of a wall on the US southern border. The common thread of these orders is the blatant disregard for the will of the people, care of the earth, and personhood and struggles of the migrant.
Our hearts are with the Standing Rock nation and all indigenous people who have worked so hard to protect the water and the land from the Dakota Access pipeline. The will of the people was heard when it came to changing the route of this pipeline just a few months ago, and now the people are being overlooked in the interest of corporate growth. We believe in people over profit. We believe in the care of the earth over the desire for oil. Mark Charles, a Navajo man and activist said, “No matter how much money you have. No matter how powerful you are. No matter what alternative facts you quote. The truth of the matter is – You CANNOT drink oil.” In the end, travesties against the earth will affect us all – even those who make much profit off pillaging the earth.
Our hearts are with our immigrant brothers and sisters living in fear of deportation and separation from their families. No one flees their countries of origin on a whim. We honor the multiplicity of reasons people migrate to the United States, many of which are poverty, gang violence, and terror. People are not the enemy, but that is the myth we are being told by President Trump. Building a wall is the visual symbol of these political lies. We do not believe this story, and we will not support this wall.
We need a country where people feel safe, welcomed, and know the only prerequisite for their rights is being human. All human beings, regardless of skin color or country of origin, should be able to rely on having safe water, a safe family, and a clean earth. President Trump’s executive orders set us on an immoral course we cannot endorse. Pax Christi USA is committed to the vision of justice that trumps hate and builds bridges instead of walls.
Peace of Christ,
Sr. Patricia Chappell; Executive Director – Pax Christi USA
ROME- Facing a cascade of bloodshed around the world, including wars in Syria, Iraq, and Ukraine, a six-decade civil conflict in Colombia, the rise of fundamentalist movements throughout the Middle East, northern Africa and the Philippines, and a seemingly endless string of terrorist attacks, Pope Francis on Friday called for a non-violent response.
“Non-Violence: A Style of Politics for Peace” is the theme chosen by Francis for his yearly message for the Church-sponsored World Day of Peace, which will be held on January 1.
According to a Vatican statement summarizing the pope’s approach, non-violence, when understood as a political method based on safeguarding the rights and equal dignity of all, “without any discrimination and distinction,” can overcome armed conflict.
“In this perspective, it becomes important to increasingly recognize not the right of force, but the force of right,” said the statement released on Friday.
Although this will be Francis’ fourth message for a World Day of Peace, it has special significance because it marks the 50th anniversary of the World Day of Peace, an annual launched by Pope Paul VI.
The message will be sent to all foreign ministries around the world, signaling the Vatican’s top diplomatic concerns for 2017.
“Violence and Peace are at the origin of two opposite ways to building society,” Friday’s statement said. “The proliferation of hotbeds of violence produces most serious negative social consequences.”
“Peace, by contrast, promotes social positive consequences and it allows the achievement of real progress,” the statement says.
Pope Francis has often spoken of a “Third World War in Pieces,” referring to the many sprouts of violence and active wars around the globe. Taking into consideration only the four bloodiest ongoing conflicts, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan and Nigeria, close to 90,000 people were killed in 2015 as a direct result of fighting.
This number doesn’t include those who died trying to reach a safer place, nor those who died of war-related starvation or lack of health care.
Often seen as a short summary of what will be a several-page papal message, the statement released on Friday called for “negotiated ways of peace” even when they seem “tortuous and impractical.”
Thus, non-violence “will not only consist of desire, of moral rejection of violence, barriers, destructive impulses, but also of a realistic political method that gives rise to hope.”
Among other things, in the message to be released at a future date but before Jan. 1st, Francis is expected to show “a path of hope,” calling for the settlement of disputes to be reached through negotiation instead of armed conflicts, overcoming a sense of superiority from one nation over the other.
He’s also bound to call for an end of illegal arms trafficking, something he’s done many times before.
Non-violence, however, “does not mean that one nation can remain indifferent to the tragedies of another. Rather it means a recognition of the primacy of diplomacy over the noise of arms,” the statement said.
Previous themes chosen by Francis for the annual peace message include this years’ “Overcome Indifference and Win Peace,” and 2015’s “No longer slaves, but brothers and sisters.”
In the one for 2016, the pontiff listed many of the world’s conflicts, but he also described some rays of hope, including the Paris’ agreement on climate change, interreligious dialogue, and his own Jubilee Year of Mercy.
“Sadly, war and terrorism, accompanied by kidnapping, ethnic or religious persecution, and the misuse of power marked the past year from start to finish,” Francis said. Yet, he added, some events of 2015 inspire him “to encourage everyone not to lose hope in our human ability to conquer evil and to combat resignation and indifference.”
The eight-page document was a call not to lose faith in mankind because “God does not abandon us,” while appealing to civil society to take care of its most vulnerable members: prisoners, migrants, the unemployed, the infirm, and the unborn.
“Peace is both God’s gift and a human achievement,” Francis wrote.
Significantly more deaths from gun violence occur each year in the United States than any other developed nation in the world. A February 2016 American Journal of Medicine study reveals that, with 10.2 deaths from firearms per 100,000 citizens in 2010, the U.S. suffered nearly three times the rate of fatalities as any other country in the study. The Brady Center to Prevent Gun Violence estimates that between 2009 and 2013 nearly 109,000 people were shot in the U.S. each year, with an average of 32,964 dying from their wounds annually, including 2,624 children and teens. The effective lack of restrictions on access to guns contributes to gun violence. The Washington Post reports that Americans now own an astonishing 112.6 guns per 100 citizens, compared to the worldwide average of just 10.2 guns per 100 persons.
Numerous mass shootings have scarred the American landscape: Sandy Hook, Columbine, Orlando, San Bernardino, Charleston, Aurora and Virginia Tech are among the communities where innocent lives have been lost. After each devastating incident, gun advocates and their primary spokesman, National Rifle Association (NRA) CEO Wayne LaPierre, respond by calling for more guns and fewer gun safety laws, and by accusing those calling for greater gun safety of “politicizing” tragedy. Hopes for reasonable federal gun control legislation are stymied with Congress effectively “bought off” by the NRA, with $650,000 in donations to members of Congress in the 2012 election, and over $808,000 in 2014.
Special mention must be made of what Pax Christi USA, in its July 2016 Statement on Racial Violence in the U.S. calls “a crisis of racism and fear – political and media sources brand certain people as presumptive enemies. Our uncivil political rhetoric, amplified by the media, reinforces the fear of whole groups of people: young black men, Muslims, undocumented immigrants, members of the LGBTQ community. This only serves to fan racism, bigotry and the ‘blaming of victims’ of impoverishment and marginalization.” It is essential to involve such marginalized communities in the search for solutions to gun violence.
The Hebrew prophets repeatedly warned against idolatry; as a prime example, placing trust in weapons. “God will judge between nations and render decisions for many peoples. They will beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; one nation will not lift up the sword against another, nor will they train for war anymore.” (Isaiah 2:4). In the wake of the Newtown tragedy, the Religious Action Center of Reform Judaism posed the question, “Is the need for sensible gun-control a religious issue?” Its Director, Rabbi David Saperstein answered, drawing on the same prophetic tradition of his faith: “You bet it is. The indiscriminate distribution of guns is an offense against God and humanity. Our gun-flooded, violence prone society has turned weapons into idols. And the appropriate religious response to idolatry is sustained moral outrage.”
The Catholic Church has, as the American bishops remind us, “… been a consistent voice for the promotion of peace at home and around the world and a strong advocate for the reasonable regulation of firearms.” In his January 1, 2014 World Day of Peace message, Pope Francis proclaimed, “I appeal forcefully to all those who sow violence and death by force of arms: in the person you today see simply as an enemy to be beaten, discover rather your brother or sister, and hold back your hand! Give up the way of arms and go out to meet the other in dialogue, pardon and reconciliation, in order to rebuild justice, trust, and hope around you!”
Pax Christi Michigan agrees that “reasonable regulation of firearms” is urgently needed, and long overdue. Specifically, we advocate comprehensive federal legislation that would:
As part of the Catholic peace and justice movement that seeks to model the Peace of Christ, Pax Christi Michigan considers the current situation, with gun violence ravaging our families and communities and terrorizing our children, to be unconscionable. With this Statement on Gun Violence, we declare unequivocally that we reject gun violence, and that we follow the One who said, “Peter, put away your sword.”
Graphic from Brady Campaign to End Gun Violence
As Christians committed to a more just and peaceful world we are called to take a clear stand for creative and active nonviolence and against all forms of violence. With this conviction, and in recognition of the Jubilee Year of Mercy declared by Pope Francis, people from many countries gathered at the Nonviolence and Just Peace Conference sponsored by the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace and Pax Christi International on April 11-13, 2016 in Rome.
Our assembly, people of God from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Oceania included lay people, theologians, members of religious congregations, priests, and bishops. Many of us live in communities experiencing violence and oppression. All of us are practitioners of justice and peace. We are grateful for the message to our conference from Pope Francis: “your thoughts on revitalizing the tools of nonviolence, and of active nonviolence in particular, will be a needed and positive contribution”.
Looking at our world today
We live in a time of tremendous suffering, widespread trauma and fear linked to militarization, economic injustice, climate change, and a myriad of other specific forms of violence. In this context of normalized and systemic violence, those of us who stand in the Christian tradition are called to recognize the centrality of active nonviolence to the vision and message of Jesus; to the life and practice of the Catholic Church; and to our long-term vocation of healing and reconciling both people and the planet.
We rejoice in the rich concrete experiences of people engaged in work for peace around the world, many of whose stories we heard during this conference. Participants shared their experiences of courageous negotiations with armed actors in Uganda and Colombia; working to protect the Article 9, the peace clause in the Japanese Constitution; accompaniment in Palestine; and countrywide peace education in the Philippines. They illuminate the creativity and power of nonviolent practices in many different situations of potential or actual violent conflict. Recent academic research, in fact, has confirmed that nonviolent resistance strategies are twice as effective as violent ones.
The time has come for our Church to be a living witness and to invest far greater human and financial resources in promoting a spirituality and practice of active nonviolence and in forming and training our Catholic communities in effective nonviolent practices. In all of this, Jesus is our inspiration and model.
Jesus and nonviolence
In his own times, rife with structural violence, Jesus proclaimed a new, nonviolent order rooted in the unconditional love of God. Jesus called his disciples to love their enemies (Matthew 5: 44), which includes respecting the image of God in all persons; to offer no violent resistance to one who does evil (Matthew 5: 39); to become peacemakers; to forgive and repent; and to be abundantly merciful (Matthew 5-7). Jesus embodied nonviolence by actively resisting systemic dehumanization, as when he defied the Sabbath laws to heal the man with the withered hand (Mark 3: 1-6); when he confronted the powerful at the Temple and purified it (John 2: 13-22); when he peacefully but determinedly challenged the men accusing a woman of adultery (John 8: 1-11); when on the night before he died he asked Peter to put down his sword (Matthew 26: 52).
Neither passive nor weak, Jesus’ nonviolence was the power of love in action. In vision and deed, he is the revelation and embodiment of the Nonviolent God, a truth especially illuminated in the Cross and Resurrection. He calls us to develop the virtue of nonviolent peacemaking.
Clearly, the Word of God, the witness of Jesus, should never be used to justify violence, injustice or war. We confess that the people of God have betrayed this central message of the Gospel many times, participating in wars, persecution, oppression, exploitation, and discrimination.
We believe that there is no “just war”. Too often the “just war theory” has been used to endorse rather than prevent or limit war. Suggesting that a “just war” is possible also undermines the moral imperative to develop tools and capacities for nonviolent transformation of conflict.
We need a new framework that is consistent with Gospel nonviolence. A different path is clearly unfolding in recent Catholic social teaching. Pope John XXIII wrote that war is not a suitable way to restore rights; Pope Paul VI linked peace and development, and told the UN “no more war”; Pope John Paul II said that “war belongs to the tragic past, to history”; Pope Benedict XVI said that “loving the enemy is the nucleus of the Christian revolution”; and Pope Francis said “the true strength of the Christian is the power of truth and love, which leads to the renunciation of all violence. Faith and violence are incompatible”. He has also urged the “abolition of war”.
We propose that the Catholic Church develop and consider shifting to a Just Peace approach based on Gospel nonviolence. A Just Peace approach offers a vision and an ethic to build peace as well as to prevent, defuse, and to heal the damage of violent conflict. This ethic includes a commitment to human dignity and thriving relationships, with specific criteria, virtues, and practices to guide our actions. We recognize that peace requires justice and justice requires peacemaking.
Living Gospel Nonviolence and Just Peace
In that spirit we commit ourselves to furthering Catholic understanding and practice of active nonviolence on the road to just peace. As would-be disciples of Jesus, challenged and inspired by stories of hope and courage in these days, we call on the Church we love to:
In every age, the Holy Spirit graces the Church with the wisdom to respond to the challenges of its time. In response to what is a global epidemic of violence, which Pope Francis has labeled a “world war in installments”, we are being called to invoke, pray over, teach and take decisive action. With our communities and organizations, we look forward to continue collaborating with the Holy See and the global Church to advance Gospel nonviolence.
Pax Christi International: Rue du Progrès, 323, 1030 Brussels, Belgium.
Phone: ++32 (0)2 502.55.50
Dear Bishop and my fellow clergy, priests and deacons in the Diocese of Kalamazoo, MI:
I have just received news that a US Army chaplain resigned in protest over the US drone, “policy of unaccountable killing” (See this link). At first I was so excited that perhaps it was a Catholic chaplain. But then read that it was our fellow Christian, Rev. John Antal, a Unitarian Universalist Church minister from New York. I praise God for his courage in saying: “The executive branch continues to claim the right to kill anyone, anywhere on earth, at any time, for secret reasons, based on secret evidence, in a secret process, undertaken by unidentified officials.”… While deployed in Afghanistan, he concluded that “our drone strikes disproportionately kill innocent people.”
“I resign because I refuse to support the US policy of preventive war, permanent military supremacy, and global power projection.”
I am wondering and puzzled why no Catholic chaplain has done likewise. What is wrong with our seminary training? Why doesn’t our diocese have an office of Justice and Peace ? Why does the present American Catholic Hierarchy ignore its own Catholic Social Teaching , even now, with the election of Pope Francis ? Why should I have been refused permission, by a panicky temporary pastor, to continue preaching the Church’s teachings on Justice and Peace ?
I know that you are aware that I helped Kathy Kelly of the Chicago Voices for Creative Nonviolence, with the help of the Peace House in Kalamazoo, plan and carry out a walk from Chicago, around the bottom of Lake Michigan and through our Diocese to the Drone base located near Battle Creek, where we demonstrated against drone warfare, and that these demonstrations do continue.
When I tried to place an article in our diocesan newspaper showing that the Vatican was moving ahead of the US bishops in understanding that the Just War theory was no longer viable, you told me to go somewhere else with this, because it would be disturbing to our Catholics here. I received the same reasoning, while attempting to start a new chapter of Pax Christi at one of our diocesan parishes, when the pastor told me to take down the sign showing that Pope John Paul II had called the Iraqi invasion unjust, immoral, and illegal.
So to some extent, I have turned to other venues. I have been working with Pax Christi of Michigan, the local chapter of the official voice of American Catholic peacebuilding; with the Michigan/ Meta Peace Team, an Unarmed Civilian Peacekeeping group operating both here in the US, and countries across the world; the people of Pace e Bene, big on nonviolence training, sponsoring actions of nonviolence across the country, and trying to unite the many American peace groups; with my son Paul, who created and owns SirenGPS, a mass warning and tactical communication platform for city and county Emergency Managers across the county; and with the Peace and Justice Studies Association, which ties together educators and activists across the country.
My present activities, after returning from 3 months this winter teaching English in a rural, outback town in Colombia, South America, where I was able to meet the President of Colombia, and observe his efforts to try to bring peace to the 50 years of civil war in that country, include:
And applying for an adjunct position at local colleges to get back into teaching Justice and Peace to young people, maybe even at the high school level again.
Recently, we celebrated the death of Rene Voillaume , founder of the Little Brothers of Jesus, on May 13th . I sometimes feel in a similar place as Charles de Foucauld – trying to do what he thought Jesus was calling him to, but he attracted no followers. He died alone in the desert. But then his vision did not die. Later a 16 year old, young student read about him, and it changed his life. 12 years later, now a priest, he and 4 others followed Foucauld’s model , and it spread.
“Little we are before the task we have to accomplish. All our lives we shall remain unprofitable servants, and we must wish to be so dealt with,” Rene Voillaume.
Well, I still hold out hope that there will be some place for me within the Diocese of Kalamazoo.
Yours in the peace of Christ, Deacon Jim Rauner
“ I see my mission, as God has made it known to me, to help make the Catholic Church into what it should be, a peace church.” – Fr Richard McSorley, S.J.
“We have assumed the name of peacemakers, but we have been unwilling to pay any significant price for peace. We want peace with half a heart and half a life and half a will. The war making continues because the waging of war is total but the waging of peace is partial.”
– Daniel Berrigan, May he rest in Eternal Peace