G'day from Down Under! I've been on the road in Australia for a month now, from Sydney on the east coast to Perth on the west, then about face and back again. I spoke in Brisbane on the east coast, and down south in Melbourne on Port Phillip Bay, and Adelaide on the Gulf of St. Vincent, and Canberra, the inland capital, as well as Townsville, way up north in the tropics, across from Magnetic Island and the Great Barrier Reef. And southernmost of all, somewhere near Antartica in Hobart on the gorgeous island of Tasmania, with other stops in between.
On the Road to Peace
Last month brought a kind of a travel nightmare. I lectured in St. Cloud, Minn., and the next morning at 3:30 a.m. (New Mexico time) out the door I went, off to the airport. I boarded at five and soon after heard the pilot utter those dreaded words, "Our apologies for the delay, but owing to mechanical problems ..." And there we sat for three hours.
Probably little surprise, but I'm a fan of movies with a message for justice and peace, films such as "Gandhi," "The Mission," "In the Name of the Father," "Missing," "Born on the Fourth of July," "Babette's Feast," "Dead Man Walking," "Erin Brokovich," "Silkwood," "Cry Freedom," "Philadelphia," "North Country," "Testament," "Veronica Guerin," and "Thirteen Days." Seeing that Oscar season is upon us, it occurred to me to give two thumbs up to one of my favorites, "Sophie Scholl."
To study the theological basis for Gospel nonviolence, there's no better place to start than the groundbreaking works of my friend Jim Douglass -- The Nonviolent Cross, Resistance and Contemplation, Lightning East to West, and The Nonviolent Coming of God.
The prophet Isaiah wrote long ago that the nations of the world must one day climb the mountain of God. There, on the mountaintop, God will instruct them in God's ways. They will learn what God wants them to do. Then, they will proceed back down the mountain, where they will immediately dismantle their weapons, share their resources with one another and live in peace one another and all creation (Isaiah 2:2-5).
Before Mother Teresa founded the Missionaries of Charity, she spent 20 years teaching well-to-do secluded high school girls as a Sister of Loreto in India. Then one day, while riding the train to Darjeeling to make her annual retreat, in a moment of "intimate prayer with Jesus," as she later described it, she heard a voice tell her to leave the order and serve "the poorest of the poor." She obeyed, and for the rest of her life, she lived with that intimate prayer, served the poorest of the poor and walked with Jesus. As all the world knows, she helped tens of thousands of dying people, missioned thousands more into the life of loving discipleship and inspired millions around the globe.
When I first met Daniel Berrigan, I wanted his advice about the life that lay ahead for me, but I didn't know exactly what to say. "What's the point of all this?" I finally asked him.
Dan took my awkward question seriously. "All we have to do is make our lives fit into the story of Jesus," he said. "We have to get our lives to make sense in light of the Gospel."
Hundreds of thousands of people opposing the war took to the streets last week in Washington and many other places. I was in Los Angeles at the time and joined a march there. Destination: the L.A. Federal Building. There we were addressed by Cindy Sheehan and Ron Kovic, inspiring speakers both.
In 1991, as the U.S. bombed Baghdad, the phone rang at the Jesuit community house in Oakland where I was living. It was an English professor at Stanford. Would I speak about peacemaking to her classes? she asked. Of course, I answered. In particular, she asked that I might speak against the war on Iraq, and help them launch a chapter of Pax Christi. Fine, I said. We spoke for several minutes more before I asked her name. "Denise Levertov," she answered.
I think we've entered well into Orwell's nightmare of a post-modern, post-Christian era of permanent war. We have a war president, a Congress that writes blank checks for war, an enthralled media that trumpets war, a sheepish citizenry that lets itself get fleeced for war, churches that confer their blessings on war, and courts that legalize weapons and imprison those who say no to war. Our war isn't only permanent, but universal -- we make war on the poor, on children, on the earth, on humanity, on God.