"The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

The Roots of War

The war is in our souls. We carry war around with us like a latent infection always ready to flame into life once more. It is here that we can apply the healing that makes us part of the whole, of the common good. The angry reply which we staunch today may go farther in stopping the next war than an angry email dashed off to a Congressperson. In the words of scripture, our battle is not against human beings, but the thrones, powers, and dominions which rule the empire. These are spiritual forces against which our souls can be set.

As Thich Nhat Hanh, one who knew war personally, so simply states, the real casualties of war are souls of men and women who come home after practicing violence for so many months. It is the lethal damage which our spirits sustain whether we are present on the battlefield or not that is the most deadly effect of war, but we can all contribute to healing that wound which festers with our faithlessness.

Those of us who believe that human beings were made to serve not themselves, but the common good, can sense how worthless it is to place all the blame for the current horror in Iraq on Bush, the neocons, the military-industrial complex, or whatever demon you choose. Their fingers pulled the trigger, but we handed them the gun. This gun grew for a long time in the darkness of our hearts, but when it was ready, they pulled it free. In the words of Thich Nhat Hanh, "The President acted the way he did because we acted the way we did. It is because we are not happy enough that we had a war. If we were happier, we would not take refuge in alcohol, drugs, war and violence." Chris Hedges' brilliant book about war is called "War is a Force that Gives us Meaning." It is a force that can fill the emptiness we have allowed to grow within ourselves and which we vainly try to fill with what will never satisfy.

"The most important practice for preventing war is to stay in touch with what is refreshing, healing, and joyful inside us and all around us. If we practice walking mindfully, being in touch with the earth, the air, the trees, and ourselves, we can heal ourselves, and our entire society will also be healed. If the whole nation would practice watering the seeds of joy and peace, and not just the seeds of anger and violence, the elements of war in all of us will be transformed." Thich Nhat Hanh, "Love in Action"

Unfortunately, anger and violence are more profitable to those who rule this society so we are barraged with an incessant flood of propaganda that weakens our efforts to be free and whole. We are told in so many ways that pushing against the tide is useless, that our survival depends on cooperating with the dominant violence that our power of resistance grows weaker and weaker. Yet within the soul of each of us is a power that cannot be bound, if only we would use it.

By reflecting on the nature of our relations with the world around us, we begin to sense of what power we are members. By embracing love in our daily lives, we break the chain of power and domination within which most of us are links. The essence of nonviolent direct action is the refusal of consent to the dominating hierarchy that wishes to absorb us. We have the power to stop consenting to the use of our hearts and minds as part of a grid to power war. We can end one small part of war right now.

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