Wednesday, June 16, 2004

Modern Prophets
This is from the commencement address Jim Wallis delivered at Stanford University:

New options for public life, and even political policy choices, can be inspired by our best moral and religious traditions; especially when present options are failing some fundamental ethical tests. The eight - century Micah has become my favorite prophet of national and global security. Listen to his prescriptions:

"He shall judge between many peoples, and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away; they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more; but they shall all sit under their own vines and under their own fig trees, and no one shall make them afraid."

Micah is saying, you simply cannot and will not beat "swords into plowshares" (remove the threats of war) until people can "sit under their own vines and fig trees" (have some share in global security). Only then will you remove the fear that leads inextricably to conflict and violence.

Several millennia later, Pope Paul VI paraphrased Micah when he said: "If you want peace, work for justice." The prophet's insight is that the possibilities for peace, for avoiding war, even for defeating terrorism, depend also upon everyone having enough for their own security - having a little vine and fig tree. The wisdom of Micah is both prophetic and practical for a time like this. If the tremendous gaps on our planet could be leveled out just a little, nobody would have to be so afraid. Anglican Archbishop Rowan Williams says it well, "There is no security apart from common security." The developed world will never be secure until the developing world also achieves some economic security; America will not be safe until the injustice and despair that fuel the murderous agendas of terrorists has finally been addressed.

Poverty is not the only cause of terrorism; it's more complicated than that with roots that are also religious, cultural, and ideological. But unless we drain the swamps of injustice in which the mosquitoes of terrorism breed, we will never overcome the terrorist threat.

Micah is pleading with us to go deeper, to the resentments and the angers, the insecurities and injustices embedded in the very structures of the world today.

Micah knew we will not overcome violence until everyone has their own vine and fig tree - their own little piece of the global economy, their own small stake in the world, their own share of security for themselves and their families. Because when you have a little patch upon which to build a life, nobody can make you afraid. And it is fear that leads to violence. That spiritual reality is truer today than ever before. Our weapons cannot finally protect us; only a world where most people feel secure will truly be safe for us and our children.

Complete address here.

This is from an interview of Wendell Berry in Sojourners Magazine:

The gospels, and sometimes the epistles, are pretty revolutionary. They propose a revolution of about 180 degrees.

One of the popular versions of the Bible has in the back an index of great stories and great chapters, and not one of them from the gospels.

But Christ was quite explicit, for instance, about his pacifism. You can't be more explicit than "Love your enemies." He did run those people out of the temple, but he didn't kill them.

People are always talking about the first church. The real first church was that gaggle of people who followed Jesus around. We don't know anything about them. But he apparently didn't ask them what creed they subscribed to, or what their sexual preference was, or any of that. He fed them. He healed them. He forgave them. He is clear about sin, but he was also for forgiveness.

Complete interview here.

Links courtesy of SojoMail.



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