While researching my Memorial Day sermon today, I happened across the following sermon excerpt by Dana Greeley, who was my Unitarian Universalist minister when I was in my teens in First Parish in Concord, Massachusetts. His pragmatic pacifism had at least some influence on me; I doubt I heard this particular sermon, but it sounds familiar nonetheless:
War is insanity in this day and age. It is total destructiveness; it is total immorality; it is total waste. The end of war should be our goal today. Negotiation should be our commitment. We ourselves ought to be both wiser and more ethical than our fathers, but we are not….
I covet for America not the fear of the nations but a stronger moral leadership, and not the hatred but the respect of humanity. You may disagree with me, of course; but I make a plea, as strongly as I can, both for the strengthening of the United Nations and for the abolition of war.
How can we broaden and deepen our own lives? How can we make ourselves more world-oriented, and make the life of our church and our community broader and deeper and more world-oriented? We are the citizens of America! We are America itself, and if we are giving and forgiving and magnanimous and resolute and peaceful, America will be giving and forgiving and magnanimous and resolute and peaceful.
If we can overcome anger and violence, America will overcome anger and violence. If we can believe and demonstrate that love is better than hate, America will do away with hatred and with arrogance and fear. If we can be persuaded that right makes might more than might makes right, then America will rely less on its… weapons, and even alter its policies. Do we believe in truth and goodwill and the oneness of humanity more than we believe in falsehood and retaliation and war?… [Forward through the Ages, p. 78.]
Greeley wrote this thirty-two years ago, five months after the United States finally pulled its last troops out of Vietnam. It sounds just a relevant today as it did back then, and could serve as a good meditation on this upcoming Memorial Day weekend — a good way to honor our dead, those who have died in military service, by meditating on how to end all wars.
Chronology corrected thanks to Scott.