I am a parish minister currently serving the Eliot Church of Natick MA. Eliot Church is a Community Church affiliated with the Unitarian Universalist Association and the United Church of Christ. Any statements made and postions held in "Unity," however, are solely mine(of course, they may be used with appropriate atribution). Therefore if you disagree, please do not blame the church!

Monday, December 13, 2004

Have We Gone Far Enough?

It has been a VERY busy week at the church. Our pageant was yesterday and, as usual, it was a huge success. It took a great deal of work on the part of the Sunday School volunteers and the parents to pull this off. Many children...great attendance...a good time had by all. I will post my sermon soon, but I thought first, that it would make sense to spend a little time on a statement posted by that most prolific of posters "Anonymous." S/hewrote that, "The issue for this Advent is 'Have any of us gone far enough in our pursuit of peace on Earth?'"

Right On! Absolutely this is a key question particularly for Christians during this time of year. Thinking about this question during the week has generated a few thoughts that I, at least, am still trying to articulate...

I found in the January issue of Sojouner's Magazine a list of ten practices of "Just Peacemaking." they found it in a book of the same title by Glen Stassen (Pilgrim Press, 1998). Here they are:
1) Support nonviolent direct action
2)Take independent initiatives to reduce threat
3)Use cooperative conflict resolution
4)Acknowledge responsibility for conflict and injustice and seek repentance and forgiveness
5)Advance democracy, human rights, and religious liberty
6)Foster just and sustainable economic development
7)Work with emerging cooperative forces in the international system
8)Strengthen the United Nations and international efforts for cooperation and human rights
9)Reduce offensive weapons and weapons trade
10)Encourage grassroots peacemaking groups and voluntary associations

One thing that I think Stassen implies, but I would like to lift out a little more, is the issue of our own "first-world" consumerism. It seems to me when we ask ourselves if we have done enough for peace we are usually talking about voting and/or protesting through marches, the written word, sermons/speeches, peace vigils and similar activities. These are, of course, important and irreplacable aspects of our social witness and we need to speak out more in the days ahead. However, it is suprising how many people drive home from the protest or polling place in their Escalades without seeing the mixed message we send to our leaders. Our hearts and our voices say one thing while our wallets (in this case) scream "Cheap Oil Now!"

It is easy to beat up on the SUV drivers and, in fact, I feel a little bad about it as it distracts us from the larger issue. I mention it only to illustrate something that occurs all over our economy. I know of no one living in the United States (regardless of what they drive and where and how they live) that does not benefit in some way by the way we do business. We are the wealthiest country and, like it or not, we need to recognize that what we do disturbes the balance of every other society. We are good people but we are also the bull in the china shop or like a big boulder thrown into a pond. We do not necessatrily mean to disturb things but we do and we do not always see it.

We (yes, we I am as guilty as anyone) North Americans find something we like and the market tries to give it to us as inexpesively as possible. Today it is oil, other times it is food or drugs, both legal and not. Other countries go hungry to support our desires for more leg-room, cathedral ceilings, cheap pineapples, and, yes Pot and Cocaine. They allow our companies (the other "Coke") to come in to their nations as well, not because of the insatiable demade for an nice, bubbly Cola import, but because they have become too attached to our own economy to make their own as they form non-sustainable agricultural and development strategies to support our whims.

I blame myself for this. I, too am a consumer of goods in this country and I could do more for peace by using my dollar wisely. It makes sense for those of us who try to put our faith first to ask if what we are buying supports our beliefs. For example, many people I know (myself included) do not allow our children to play with toy guns. We do this to show our children how we feel about violence (gun violence, in particular) in our society. That same thought needs to be spent thinking abour other toys (this includes grownup toys, too!) and about other products we all purchase without considering our need and their impact on the environment and on other people.

I am not saying that we all need to reject american culture and run off to the woods. For starters, the woods would not sustain us! But we do need to become a more caring culture and one where we, as individuals, always know that the anser to "have we done enough?" is "no." This is a question I have not wrestled with enough. It will continue to be one I take with me as I go about the rest of my Advent duties

Thank You Anonymous! You made me think.