Thursday, December 1, 2011

Post #98 - Bolder and Bolder

So, what exactly should we who care about peace, but also about democracy and human rights, about long-term American interests and about the people of Iran, do to reach a better outcome than now seems likely? It has been said by some of those who dream imperial dreams within an inner sanctum in Washington “Men go to Baghdad; real men go to Tehran.” I would offer the alternative: “Men go to war; real men – made in the image of God – find better ways to resolve their differences.” Here are a few modest proposals; while difficult to implement and certainly not guaranteed to succeed, they would almost certainly be far less costly – in treasure, blood and international goodwill – than the plans coming out of the Pentagon, the White House or the UN Security Council:

Let Us Pray

"More things are wrought by prayer than this world dreams of." (Alfred, Lord Tennyson)

It is impossible to take decisions prayerfully and at the same time vindictively. As we reach out to God with one hand, we cannot simultaneously push away or push down our brother with the other. The very canons of my church require that if my brother and I have differences, I must resolve them before coming to the altar to receive Holy Communion. Individually and collectively, we need to reexamine our assumptions and our motivations, re-frame the questions of the day and consult our spiritual leaders – not just our so-called experts – for these are life-and-death questions we are asking, and life and death, lest we forget, are not fundamentally our province.

Let us also remember, as Krista Tippett of National Public Radio wrote, "Truth can be told in an instant, forgiveness can be offered spontaneously, but reconciliation is the work of lifetimes and generations." With prayer, we start a process, like putting yeast in dough -- the strenuous part, the kneading, comes later, but will never succeed without the yeast having been added at the proper time.

On October 13, 2007 a group of 138 Muslim scholars addressed an open letter to Christian leaders, called "A Common Word." Among others, the World Council of Churches [Full disclosure:  I have served on the U.S. Committee for the WCC Decade to Overcome Violence] initiated a process of responding to the letter, in consultation with its member churches and ecumenical partners. A group of scholars and church experts in the field of Christian-Muslim relations met and produced a commentary entitled “Learning to Explore Love Together,” which was published the following March. (Both documents can be found on the WCC website.) While both parties acknowledged the theological differences that exist between the two traditions, both looked forward to "agreeing and disagreeing in respect and love."

American Muslims have begun to grow weary of hearing the complaint "why don't Muslims leaders condemn terrorism??" Though there have been hundreds of such denunciation, the press rarely gives them the play that more negative and distressing items have. Since "Common Word" was issued, efforts have begun to reach in the other direction to try to bridge the abyss that separates us. Faith leaders and others in the United States came together to form Shoulder to Shoulder: Standing with American Muslims, Upholding American Values. "Founded in November 2010 by over 20 national religious groups, Shoulder-to-Shoulder works not only on a national level, but offers strategies and support to local and regional efforts to address anti-Muslim sentiment and seeks to spread the word abroad. " September 11th Families for Peaceful Tomorrows and 9/11 Community for Common Ground Initiative are just two of the many groups that are joining in that campaign.

(To be continued...)

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