March 1, 2003 - The Lutheran: It takes courage

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By Admin1 (admin) on Monday, March 10, 2003 - 4:43 pm: Edit Post

It takes courage

Read and comment on this op-ed from the Lutheran on the courage it takes to be a peacemaker at:

It takes courage*

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It takes courage

Mar 1, 2003 - The Lutheran

By Glen Gersmehl


My two boyhood heroes served in the Vietnam War. The majority of my classmates in graduate school were military officers. Our family's relatives and friends have served in all four military branches. I respect them and what they've taught me about war and violence. Our U.S. discussions about peace and war would improve if we displayed the courage associated with military service.

For example, it takes courage to move past stereotypes. Without exception, people I know with military backgrounds are less inclined to support war than political leaders without military experience. They love their country. They respect other viewpoints. They disapprove when some in the military are overly aggressive or into ultraviolent films and macho talk.

Similarly, few peace activists I know are stereotypically naive about conflict and war. They, too, love their country. They believe in nonviolence, which means respecting and listening to those with whom they disagree. They care about civilians and soldiers who bear the brunt of war. They disapprove when peace activists are arrogant or insensitive.

We also need courage to question where our resources are going. Many military families and peace activists are critical of the priorities set by politicians. Last fall Congress allocated an additional $49.6 billion for military spending over the 2002 authorization, yet the federal budget shows that very little new money went to improve veterans' benefits and the living conditions of our service personnel. And very little of that money went to programs relevant to fighting terrorism. In 2003, the United States will again allocate nearly 100 times more money for the use of lethal force than for all nonviolent responses to conflict and terrorism combined (programs such as the Peace Corps, U.N. Peacekeeping, State Department conflict resolution, or global aid programs for the hungry and poor).

Year after year, the United States ranks last among industrialized nations in the proportion of wealth spent to address hunger and extreme poverty, root causes of violence. Both military personnel and peace activists know that spending so little on prevention doesn't make sense.

Pray for the courage to learn from the past. My friends and colleagues who served in Vietnam or studied that war strongly agree that it isn't right to send U.S. troops to fight a war that isn't just or supported by the local people.

They also agree that for all the good the United States does in the world, we've also backed too many dictators and tyrants. We were too willing to intervene in Iran and Guatemala in the 1950s, Vietnam and Indonesia in the '60s, Cambodia and Angola in the '70s, Nicaragua and Afghanistan in the '80s, Iraq and Colombia in the '90s. Most of those interventions backfired.

It's courageous, not unpatriotic, to look honestly and fairly at such cases and learn. In the words of Susan Ives, a retired career Army officer: "You do not respect the military when you send them into danger while there are still options open for nonviolent solutions."

Courage can help us grow in our understanding and use of alternatives to violence. We must give up the myth that nonviolence is ineffective or weak and that only military force can counter real evil, such as a dictator. In the last 60 years, twothirds of the world's people experienced change by nonviolent movements that were successful beyond anyone's wildest expectation against: apartheid in South Africa, Nicolae Ceausescu in Romania, Ferdinand Marcos in the Philippines and the Nazis in Denmark and Norway.

Why has the most successful route to regime change been absent from the public debate about terrorism or Iraq? We owe it to our service personnel and our brothers and sisters worldwide to examine active nonviolence.

Pray for the courage to be faithful. We often hear politicians who claim to be Christian emphasize only vengeance and violent responses to problems. I wish someone in the media would ask how they understand such clear statements from Jesus as: "You have heard it said, `An eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,' but I say, do not react violently against the one who does evil" (Matthew 5: 3839). Theologian Walter Wink offers an illuminating understanding of this passage as a call for Christians to follow "Jesus' Third Way"-- neither violence nor passivity but disciplined resistance to evil as demonstrated by Jesus, and later Mahatma Gandhi, Martin Luther King, Desmond Tutu, Dorothy Day and many others.

We are called to be peacemakers. The world sorely needs us.


* Engaging the Powers: Discernment and Resistance in a World of Domination by Walter Wink (Fortress Press, 1992;; 800-328-4648). See also

Gersmehl is national coordinator of Lutheran Peace Fellowship.

Copyright Evangelical Lutheran Church in America Mar 2003

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By Terry Adcock Colombia 61-63 on Monday, March 10, 2003 - 7:43 pm: Edit Post

That statemant by a true peacemaker makes me feel blessed to be a member of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America.

It is time for those who call themselves Christians to pray for the courage to be peacemakers in a time of preparation for violence and mayhem.

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