Friday, December 16, 2005

Oh, that we really were so dangerous...


"WASHINGTON - A year ago, at a Quaker Meeting House in Lake Worth, Fla., a small group of activists met to plan a protest of military recruiting at local high schools. What they didn't know was that their meeting had come to the attention of the U.S. military.

A secret 400-page Defense Department document obtained by NBC News lists the Lake Worth meeting as a “threat” and one of more than 1,500 “suspicious incidents” across the country over a recent 10-month period.

“This peaceful, educationally oriented group being a threat is incredible,” says Evy Grachow, a member of the Florida group called The Truth Project.

“This is incredible,” adds group member Rich Hersh. “It's an example of paranoia by our government,” he says. “We're not doing anything illegal.”

My take on this is that it's too bad we're not actually dangerous...

It's not hard to understand how a peaceful, education oriented group is considered to be a threat. The Jesus movement, a peaceful educatonally oriented group, was a threat to the Jewish establishment of its day for the same reason that Quakers, another peaceful educationally oriented group, was a threat to the Puritan establishment of its day--both worked, in essence, to unite the practices of the society in which they lived with the vision of the covenants with God that they espoused.

But that is not what our current "peace" movement is doing. What Rich Hersh says, above, is true: what we're up to is not "illegal"--it's not even dangerous to anyone except the particular leadership of the moment. We do not pose the kind of danger to our culture that Jesus and George Fox did. Our peace movement is an "anti a particular war" movement. When the war in Iraq is over, when George Bush is gone from the White House, our peace movement will fade back into the woodwork of history, its lasting influence negligible. Not really dangerous, at all.

The Jesus movement and the Quaker movement (the "Lambs War") both sought a fundamental reordering of society from the grassroots. Each sought to turn its culture away from the hollow forms of its day, and from the frustrating, alienating social and spiritual practices and relationships that divided people and made them prey upon one another, rather than praying with one another. Each sought to turn its culture away from materialism and the other "doctrines" that lead people to shove everything except God into that God shaped hole in their heart. Each sought to turn people away from the things they pursued to satisfy themselves which were actually the very things that were making them crazy (Both John the Baptist and James Nayler, if they walked around downtown Portland long enough to acclimate themselves to the cultural trappings, would understand perfectly well what was going on and what the antidote is).

Our current peace movement is not dangerous in this way. Our current peace movement speaks little of the dynamics of our society that make war the natural outcome, not an irrational abberation, of the pursuit of its values. Our current peace movement speaks little to the kind of cultural conditioning that includes things like two national holidays a year that amount to little more than info-mmercials to sell/condition us on the idea that killing people is the way to establish peace and to find security.

Yes, there is a part of this peace movement that is not animated by the simple belief that it's just the war in Iraq that is wrong but, rather, that war is a logical and necessary manifestation of a system that humans have developed to rely upon for their "security" instead of God, who have placed creaturely well being above spiritual well being, who have, to paraphrase Isaiah (and Jeremiah and...), gone over to the dark side.

If the day ever comes that the vision of this element in the peace movement grows into a significant presence then it will be as dangerous to our fallen culture as a whole as the current peace movement seems to be to the current administration.

For the moment, however, the peace movement is not concerned with spirituality and is content to leave the culture of the SUV in place. For the most part the peace movement is as spiritually disoriented as the Bush Administration and for so long as it is will have a similar, transitory impact on the unfolding of events.

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