Tag Archives: Rebecca Parker

Interfaith peace witness

For some months now, I’ve been planning to head down to Washington D.C. for the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq on March 7 — the weekend just before the fifth anniversary of the start of the Iraq War. I arranged to take a week of vacation at that time. Even though I’d call myself a post-Christian, I’m still someone who tries to follow the teachings of Jesus of Nazareth, and as such I found last year’s Christian Peace Witness to be the most theologically significant opposition to the unjust war in Iraq. We worshipped first, protested second; that felt like the right thing to do. And the protest took the form of standing in witness, in the spirit of what Rebecca Parker and Rita Nakashima Brock wrote in their book Proverbs of Ashes:

Salvation begins with the courage of witnesses whose gaze is steady. Steady witnesses neither flee in horror to hide their eyes, nor console with sweet words, ‘It isn’t all that bad. Something good is intended by this.’ Violence is illuminated by insistent exposure.

Last year’s Christian Peace Witness for Iraq also represented the largest single act of civil disobediecne in opposition to the Iraq War: some 222 people were arrested for crossing police lines and praying for peace in front of the White House.

This year: March 7, 2008

In addition to Christians, last year’s Christian Peace Witness for Iraq included Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, and post-Christians like me. In recognition of this religious diversity, this year’s peace witness is being co-sponsored by an interfaith group calling themselves Olive Branch Interfaith Peace Partnership.

Workshops begin on Thursday, March 6, at 6:30 in the evening (along with civil disobedience training, required for those planning to be arrested). Worship services will take place on Friday, March 7, at noon (I’ll be worshipping at All Souls Unitarian Universalist church); and the interfaith witness and nonviolent action will take place at 2:30.

If you can’t make it, why not sponsor an interfaith peace witness in your own community, similar to the Christian prayer vigils that will be taking place. If you are going to the peace witness on March 7, let me know and maybe we can connect at All Souls Church.

Should be a bestseller, but won’t be

This week, I’ve been reading Proverbs of Ashes by Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Parker. Brock and Parker take on the subject of violence, and suggest that the Christian tradition provides a fertile breeding ground for acts of violence; they argue for example that if God was willing to kill off God’s son Jesus, what does that say to a child who’s being abused by her/his parents? –it says, do what Jesus did, accept the suffering, and all will be well.

But do not imagine that this is a Christian-bashing book. Both Parker and Brock have stayed within the Christian tradition. Rather, they are trying to retell the Christian story so that it becomes less destructive. In that respect, they remind me a little of the great Universalist Hosea Ballou. 200 years ago this year, Ballou wrote A Treatise on Atonement, in which he pointed out that a God of love would not kill his son in order to atone for something. It strikes me that what Brock and Parker are really doing is updating Universalism, finding anew that God is love.

And if you have no interest in discussions of God or Christianity, the book is still worth reading. The personal stories in the book are absolutely riveting — this is one book of theology that truly is a page-turner. And even if you’re not Christian, the stories give you a sense of how violence has become endemic in our culture. Highly recommended.