They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say, when there is no peace.
– Jeremiah 6:14
There is no way to peace, there is only peace.
In the summer of 1978 I assisted a doctor in a refugee camp who treated the war wounds of Hmong tribal people. Amputations, shrapnel, napalm, phosphorous, bullet wounds, blindness, deafness. I experienced deep conflict when I learned that my own country had caused these in a campaign directed at them through a US military strategy to destabilize the region in which these people lived, bombing it on the average of every eight minutes over a period of nine years. I knew that I had a choice as a result of my expereince.
It took me the next twenty years to come to accept that my only viable option was that of non-cooperation. Ultimately I refused to make enough money to pay taxes. For two thirds of my pastoral employment we lived below the poverty line. As it turned out, this second twenty years of my life was great preparation for what was the third twenty year period of my life.
This last twenty years has been hallmarked by my own penniless refugee status, living in a converted shed in the third poorest riding in Canada, farming really bad soil without resources, and trying our best to grow food for those with less access to the necessities of life. We personally do indeed have some hint of what it means to have not in a society of haves. For all the poverty heaped upon us during that time we are now more than grateful. As Joseph learned 3,500 years ago in his exile to Egypt, you meant it for evil, but God meant it for good. We are finally equipped and free to live our last twenty years doing exactly what we were created to do…to give freely and fully out of our poverty, which as far as we can tell is the call of the gospel incumbent on all followers of Christ and truly rare in the world of Christianity today, at least in the US and Canada.
It would be wrong to believe now (or at any time in history, or in the future as well) that if we live peaceably that it will change the world. It hasn’t, it isn’t, and it won’t. But we do not measure our call by our success…we simply do that which honours our own recognition that we are made in the image of God, living out the sacrificial acts that that entails. We create a new order within the hollow shell of the old.
Forty years ago we realized that we had a choice. We could either follow the ways of governments and corporations and put an inconsequential, religious sugar frosting on top, or we could just lay aside all the rubbish we had been enculturated to believe and literally be led day by day, deeper and deeper into dying to ourselves and try to follow it.
It’s a privilege to so live and to so give in spite of the world’s headlong rush toward self-destruction.
Ongoing ecological disaster in the tar sands: