interfaith friends

Interfaith Friendship Will Save The World

My Friend Sheima

The first face of Islam I ever encountered belonged to a smiling 11-year-old girl who kindly gestured for me to sit next to her on the bus that would take us both to our first day of middle school. I was shy and introverted, but I had been nervously excited to begin a new chapter of my life with all the thrills middle school had to offer – changing classrooms, having my own locker, no longer being just a “little kid” in elementary school. All of my eager anticipation was nearly crushed before the day even began, as many kids on the bus greeted me by making fun of the new perm I had been so eager to show off. But this one girl reached out to me in kindness, and I felt a rush of relief in the midst of my embarrassment as I sat down next to her. We gradually became good friends. Over the years, Sheima would become a sister to me, one of the first people who helped me see the beauty in God and humanity… and the potential within myself.

When we first met, I did not know anything about her religion. But as time went on, I realized that her faith had compelled her thoughtfulness in our first encounter. It is not that she felt obligated by her religion to reach out to me. Rather, in knowing God to be gracious and merciful, in learning from her faith the values of empathy and compassion, her natural inclination toward me and everyone else was one of love. Her love mirrored the love of God to which she opened herself multiple times a day in her prayers and meditations, and love from and for God shaped her understanding of the world.

This is the Islam I first encountered, manifested in one of the best friends I have ever had. Her family welcomed me into their home and hearts as well, and through them I learned not only the doctrines of Islam, but the values of Islam embodied in Muslims who take their faith seriously – values of hospitality, compassion, tolerance, patience, generosity and love.

Religion As A Weapon

I know that there are violent expressions and interpretations of Islam. I know that any religion can be used to marginalize and exclude others. I know that not all Muslims, and not all Christians, interpret their faith in a way that is loving and peaceful. I know that monotheistic faiths in particular can lead people to an exclusive understanding of God that facilitates a dualistic, us-versus-them mentality that treats people of other faiths and no faith with suspicion and hostility, making them easier to dehumanize, oppress, persecute, and kill.

But none of my Muslim friends, none of the Muslims I know, have ever been motivated by their faith towards hostility and violence. The hostile spirit wielded by some Christians toward Muslims in the post 9/11 world, and particularly after the attacks in Paris, however, is unmistakable. When governors shut the doors to Syrian refugees, prominent officials call for religious tests, and presidential candidates seek to score points through ostentatious displays of Christianity and simultaneous fearmongering against Islam, faith is brandished as a cudgel.

But it gets worse.

When President George W. Bush launched the Global War on Terror, he felt compelled by his understanding of the Christian faith to do so. Former Palestinian Foreign Minister Nabil Shaath has quoted him as saying:

I’m driven with a mission from God. God would tell me, ‘George, go and fight those terrorists in Afghanistan.’ And I did, and then God would tell me, ‘George, go and end the tyranny in Iraq.’

While President Barack Obama has not made such appeals to God regarding his administrative decisions, he also identifies as Christian. And he has overseen the escalation of the war in Afghanistan, a war on Libya, and over 450 drone strikes that have killed predominantly untargeted individuals. A conservative estimate of the deaths from the War on Terror in Afghanistan, Pakistan, and Iraq alone stands at 1.3 million.

While religion should not drive foreign policy, Christianity that does not lead to restraint in warfare, Christianity that does not bear witness to the victims of war, has lost its salt and is worth nothing. And the many who see no contradiction, indeed, see a vital link, between Christian faith and military service, who believe in raining fire and death upon the enemy, do not know what spirit they are from.

At home and abroad, Muslims have experienced Christianity as a weapon. Yet they are constantly compelled by a demanding, suspicious population to counter the image of Islam as a hostile religion of terrorists. Muslims in the United States and around the world have denounced terrorism, hosted interfaith gatherings, written editorials and articles, and continue to live lives of patient compassion, modeling the religion of peace that I have come to know and love. Yet their voices are too often ignored by those who demand accountability for “Islamic” violence.

The truth is, violent expressions of Islam mirror violent expressions of Christianity in a cycle of hostility driven not by God, but by human fear. As mimetic theory shows, vehement religious zeal is driven by a desire to assert one’s self, or one’s religion, over and against another, and any differences are ironically drowned in an overwhelming flood of violence.

A Mutual Dependence on Enmity

The tides of violence are rising as fear and hatred perpetuate one another. The American Empire, ever living up to Dr. King’s apt assessment as the “greatest purveyor of violence in the world today,” depends on ISIS to keep the war machine turning and put a noble face of “fighting terror” on a policy of maintaining military dominance and exploiting resources. ISIS, for its part, depends on violence from the United States and her allies to create an atmosphere of desperation, which is their biggest recruitment tool. In a recent article for The Nation, Lydia Wilson interviewed captured ISIS soldiers who confessed to being “terrorized” into fighting. Civil war fueled by American occupation had triggered a desire for vengeance, but more than revenge, fighters were desperate to provide for their families in a broken and impoverished land.

ISIS uses the devastation and hopelessness nurtured by a decade and a half of war to convince Muslims that the world is against them and that they are their only hope. Every gun fired, every drone strike, every parent, child, spouse and sibling killed, every dream obliterated, drives another recruit into their ranks. And with every act of terror they commit, they turn the world against not only them, but against the innocent Muslims who become increasingly isolated. Islamophobic attitudes and policies play directly into the hands of ISIS, who want to force Muslims to choose between them and an increasingly hostile world. Muslims who resist this binary are voices for peace, and they make up the majority of ISIS’s victims.

ISIS uses Islam to bring a veneer of righteousness to their violence, when there is nothing Islamic about it. Seeking to provoke overreaction by Western powers and further isolate fellow Muslims, they target not only soldiers, but civilians of all religions, ignoring the Qur’anic proclamation that to kill an innocent person is to kill all of humanity. (5:32). The United States military, for its part, invokes Christian prayers and employs Christian chaplains, yet throws Jesus’s command to “love your enemies” out the window and demonizes its victims. Both sides are made up of fearful, flawed human beings trying to protect themselves and their families, believing God to be on their side.

Interfaith Friendship Will Save The World

But there is hope. Religion that excludes and dehumanizes others is a weapon, but faith that recognizes the interconnection of all life can be a healing balm. At their best, Islam and Christianity both show life, the universe, everything to be ordained by the One who is Most Gracious, Most Merciful. Christians and Muslims worldwide are compelled – by hope and faith and love nurtured by prayer and support from their communities – to lives of active kindness, generosity, and a determined struggle for restorative justice. At their best, Islam and Christianity inspire not pride, but humility, not self-righteousness, but empathy, not hostility, but healing.

Worshipping the same God, inspired by ethics of compassion and mercy, and striving for the same goals of restorative justice for victims of exploitation, oppression and violence, Christians and Muslims have great potential to be not merely allies, not simply partners in peacemaking, but true friends. Interfaith dialogue is a good beginning, but the seeds of compassion must be sown deeper. Knowledge can be forgotten, fear can taint information, but friendship is the antidote to hostility that can dispel violence and lay a foundation for reconciliation.

So how do we form these friendships? Muslims around the world are already reaching out, as I have said before. Christians must step up and denounce Islamophobia, in order to dispel the fear that precludes relationship. Hand-in-hand with this task comes recognizing and condemning the violence of our own government. I am convinced that Islamophobia works subconsciously to dehumanize the victims of American aggression overseas as well as implant subtle but damaging views of Muslims at home. How else can we explain our collective complacency with a drone program where up to 90% of the casualties are not targeted and a genocidal ideology that justifies the killing of all military-aged males by deeming them combatants even when their identities are unknown? Friendship cannot grow in hostile soil polluted by fear and self-deception.

With fear dispelled and hearts broken open to the truth of our violence, I believe that more people will be willing to reach out to Muslims in friendship, or receive the friendship Muslims continually offer. Of course, friendships, like the one Sheima and I developed, come about naturally if they come about at all. They cannot be forced. But the current climate marginalizing and isolating Muslims precludes interfaith friendships, whereas reaching out in humility and compassion can facilitate them.

Friendships between Muslims and Christians would go a long way toward sucking the oxygen out of ISIS’ ideology and out of the United States’ war machine. Neither side in this battle is endorsed by God, no matter what leaders and soldiers might say. Yet all who fight are beloved of the same God, who stands with all victims and recognizes the fighters themselves as victims of violence and their own fear. The key to peace is not the elimination of the people who fight the battles, but the elimination of enmity itself. Showing that friendship is possible across boundaries of faith shows that God transcends human limits and can’t be confined to one group or invoked against another. It also draws upon and fuels positive mimesis. Compassion is contagious.

Just as ISIS and the West mirror each other in violence, Muslims and Christians can mirror one another in love, and come together in mutual resolve to end violence and sow seeds of peace. A fragile and dying world is dependent on it. And our souls will be enhanced by letting the expansive and reconciling love of the God we all believe in draw us together. Because I am already blessed with such a wonderful friendship, I can testify that so much joy and hope await if we tear down the divisions of fear and hostility and come together in love. We have everything to lose continuing on our destructive path of violence, and everything to gain in coming together in friendship. If we cannot make peace together, we cannot make peace at all. Only friendship across all human divides can save the world.

Image: Copyright: Katarzyna Bialasiewicz via


In Memory of René Girard: The Truth about Life and Death

Many scholars have claimed that René Girard’s mimetic theory is one of the most important insights of the 20th century. But those of us who have been highly influenced by René know better. For us, it is not an overstatement to state that René’s explanation of mimetic theory is the most important discovery of human nature in the last 2,000 years. That is, since the Gospels.

This morning brought the news that René has passed away at age 91. “Girardians,” as we are called, have been on social media sharing our sorrow at his passing, but also our profound sense of gratitude for this giant among human beings. We stand on his shoulders. And our vision is all the clearer for it.

As I reflected upon the news, I was struck by the fact that René taught us so much about death. Specifically, about the scapegoat mechanism. René confronted us with the truth about being human. We all have a propensity to manage our conflicts by blaming someone else for them. We find unity against a common enemy. In good sacrificial formula, all of our conflicts and sins against one another are washed away as we unite in expelling or sacrificing our scapegoat. Temporary reconciliation and peace descends upon the community, but it is only temporary. For the expulsion or murder of our scapegoat never actually solves our problems. Our conflicts re-emerge and the scapegoating mechanism continues.

But if René taught us about death, he also taught us about life. The solution to our natural inclination toward scapegoating is found in the Judeo-Christian tradition, specifically in the Gospels’ portrayal of Jesus’ death. “Christ agrees to die,” wrote René in his book Things Hidden Since the Foundation of the World, “so that mankind will live.”

Many progressive Christians who do not know René’s work will bristle at that statement. Indeed, without reading René’s books, it could sound like a form of penal subsitutionary atonement theory that claims Jesus allows humanity to live by saving us from the violent wrath of God.

But nothing could be further from the truth. The truth that René revealed throughout his career is that wrath doesn’t belong to God. It belongs solely to humans. In anthropological terms, what was revealed by the death of Jesus was the human scapegoat mechanism. Once you read René’s works, you realize how obvious it is that the violence at the cross had nothing to do with God, but everything to do with the human propensity to scapegoat.

Still, at this point, we should warn ourselves not to scapegoat penal substitutionary atonement theory. After all, if René taught us anything it’s that human have been projecting our own violence onto God since the foundation of the world. We justify our violence and hatred against our scapegoats in the name of God or peace or justice or whatever we deem to be a important to our well-being.

René taught us that to truly live is to stop scapegoating our enemies, and to stop justifying it in the name of God. Once at a conference, René was asked what would happen if mimetic theory became wildly successful. He answered, “There would be no more scapegoating.”

To end scapegoating and to truly live we need to follow Jesus by turning away from violence and turning toward our neighbors, including those we call our enemies, in the spirit of love and nonviolence.

René not only taught us that truth, he lived into it. I met him once at a conference for young Girardian scholars. I was struck by the fact that René wasn’t interested in teaching us, or making sure we had his theory “right.” What he wanted more than anything was to talk with us. He wanted to learn about our lives and what interested us. He had a special humility about him – instead of taking glory for himself, he gave glory to others. For example, I remember sitting across the table from him. He smiled as he looked me in the eyes and said, “I’ve watched your Mimetic Theory 101 videos. They’re good.” That’s the way he was. He affirmed all of us and encouraged us to follow the truth, no matter where it led.

René always gave the last word to the Gospels. It’s where he found the truth about life and death. It’s only fitting that I end with this quote that sums up René’s theory about God, violence, and love,

The following is the basic text, in my opinion, that shows us a God who is alien to all violence and who wishes in consequence to see humanity abandon violence:

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father who is in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the just and the unjust.” (Matthew 5:43-45, Things Hidden, 183)

May our brother René Girard rest in peace and rise in the glorious love of God.

Image: Screenshot from YouTube.

a and s ravencast

Talk To Me Tuesday: The RavenCast: Episode 2 with Suzanne Ross on Mimetic Theory and Maria Montessori

Show Notes

In this episode, Suzanne Ross discusses her latest project on Maria Montessori. You can keep up with Suzanne by liking her Facebook page The Maria Montessori Project.

We talk about the intersections of mimetic theory and Montessori.

Mimetic theory and Montessori’s teaching methods provide ways of transforming cultures of violence into cultures of peace.

Obama extends war

Open Letter To President Obama: End The War In Afghanistan

Dear President Obama,

Your recent decision to extend indefinitely the longest war in American history was made without the consent of the American people and against the will of millions of Afghans. For hope of stability and security, violence on all sides must cease. The occupation, arms sales, and missile and drone strikes must come to an immediate end. I join the millions of voices that cry “#Enough!” Afghanistan, indeed the whole world, is long overdue for peace.

Your announcement that nearly 10,000 troops will remain in Afghanistan until 2017, when they will be reduced by about half but still not fully withdrawn (should this timetable be honored) has come at a time when the horrors of war have been laid bare for the world to see. The recently leaked “Drone Papers,” published by The Intercept, document the deadly consequences of an intelligence process that is not only deeply flawed, but based on a dehumanizing premise which belies any concern for the Afghan people.

Principled journalists have long published atrocities regularly committed by our military. These atrocities are rightly called acts of terrorism and war crimes when committed by others. The practice of “signature strikes”, assigning death sentences from afar to people whose identities are unknown based on patterns of their behavior, assumes that life and death judgments can be made without knowing a name or having a conversation. It puts the lives of Afghan citizens into the hands of a military that has been trained to dehumanize them (as killing without knowing someone’s identity is the very epitome of dehumanization). But our military goes beyond killing those whose behavior may reasonably be deemed suspicious, and targets people caught in the act of helping their fellow human beings. We kill rescuers. We attack mourners at funerals. And in one of the most callous, dishonest policies imaginable, we have effectively demonized the entire male population of countries we purport to be helping by preemptively labeling all military-aged males killed in attacks “enemy combatants.”

So the drone papers did not particularly shock me, as they simply provide evidence to confirm what has already been publically asserted. But now I can cite specific examples to argue why our military presence in Afghanistan is counterproductive to the longterm security of the region, as well as why we are making more enemies with every missile fired. When programs such as “Operation Haymaker,” kill 155 individuals but only 19 targets, and civilians are renamed “Enemies Killed In Action” so as not to damper the military’s assessment of success, how can we maintain any pretense of moral differentiation between ourselves and those who wish us harm? When targeting cell phones, rather than people, often results in the wrong people being killed, the continued use of such reckless tactics is criminal. But most intolerable of all is the sanitizing and mythologizing of this new age of warfare as “targeted” and “precise,” obscuring the reality of civilian casualties, a terrorized populace, and a nation fractured and destabilized by generations of violence and vengeance with no end in sight.

Whereas charts and coded language reduce human beings to “objectives” and “jackpots,” there is a reality in Afghanistan of children orphaned, families internally displaced, overwhelming poverty, dwindling resources, and death raining down from the sky on a daily basis, further eroding the security and the hope of people who, like everyone else in the world, are in desperate need of compassion. Despite the fear, cruelty, and loss that turn some to violence, there are millions who simply long for peace, and in spite of everything hold on to the hope that love will triumph over violence. Among them are the Afghan Peace Volunteers like Zarghuna and Ali, young people with hopes and dreams and stories that you must hear, Mr. President. They are crying out for this war to end.

Their future cannot be ensured with guns and missiles, Mr. President. When we kill civilians with impunity by slapping the label of “enemy” upon them, we make a wary population ever more fearful and distrustful, and we cannot be surprised when new enemies arise. If after 14 years of war the security of Afghanistan continues to deteriorate, and all gains are “fragile” and “reversible,” then we must learn the painfully obvious truth: security cannot be coerced by force. It must be built upon trust that comes through peacemaking.

The first step is to consent to an independent investigation of the U.S. airstrike on the hospital in Kunduz. Hospitals like this, committed to neutrality, until recently had nothing to fear from their patients or the people of Afghanistan because they provided necessary, cost-free services people needed. These were the kinds of places that established trust and fostered good will among the people. When those missiles rained down upon them for an hour, terrorizing and maiming and killing, they destroyed more than walls and bodies and the only hospital in a region of 300,000 people. They destroyed hope, and sent a message that there is nowhere safe. Terror and cruelty create enemies, Mr. President, but courageous honesty could be the first building block of friendship.

From there we must safely and efficiently withdraw our troops, and provide them with the care they need upon return. An international coalition of peacemakers should relay the needs of the Afghan people to our government, so that we can hear from them how best to make reparations. We should cease all weapons dealing in the region. And we should commit ourselves to clean, renewable energy and cease our ambitions to use Afghanistan for an oil and gas pipeline to manipulate the resources of Central Asia. Along with profitability to the powerbrokers in the defense industry, the desire to use Afghanistan to acquire resources for the United States is the true reason we maintain our destabilizing and deadly presence. It is not in the interest of the Afghan people. And it creates terrorized, vengeance-seeking people, which is not in the interest of the safety of the United States. But it is in our mutual interest to cease all violence and give peace a chance.

I understand that turning around from waging war to building peace takes enormous political as well as moral courage. Along with the dehumanizing language that makes killing possible, the mythology glorifying war in our nation is relentless. The desire to serve and protect drives many soldiers, and that same desire drives many of them to tell the truth about the barbarity of war in organizations like Veterans for Peace. To take action not just to draw down a war, but to eliminate war from our policy altogether, is difficult in a nation that praises the sacrifice but remains willfully blind to the brutal counterproductivity of war. Fortunately, Mr. President, courageous whistleblowers are making it more politically expedient for you to draw down war by exposing it in all of its gruesome cruelty. And I will never cease to pray and work for the day when the hearts and minds and courage of those who truly wish to serve and protect find ways to do so through peacemaking and reconciliation rather than violence. I stand with millions crying out for peace. Please stand with us, Mr. President, and make it happen.



Lindsey Paris-Lopez

Editor In Chief of the Raven Foundation

Image: Screenshot from Youtube, “The Longest U.S. War, Prolonged: After Vowing Afghan Pullout, Obama Extends Occupation Indefinitely,” from Democracy Now! Image cropped.

gun control 5

More Than Gun Control – What We Must Do To Stop Mass Shootings

The scariest thing about mass murderers is just how normal they are.

In the wake of Umpqua Community College shooting last week, the New York Times published an article titled, “Mass Murderers Fit Profile, as Do Many Others Who Don’t Kill.” Here’s a very disturbing line:

What seems telling about the killers, however, is not how much they have in common but how much they look and seem like so many others who do not inflict harm.

What’s so scary about these killers is that we’d really like to have an explanation that makes them “other” than the rest of us. So we say they are mentally ill – unlike the rest of us who are quite mentally healthy – and our society needs to do a better job of caring for them.

While it’s true that we need to do a better job caring for the mentally ill, the vast majority of people with mental illness will never harm anyone. Mass murderers don’t tend to be mentally ill. As Dr. James Alan Fox stated in the Times article, “They’re not out of touch with reality. They don’t hear voices. They don’t think the people they’re shooting are gophers.” In other words, the problem with these shooters have very little to do with mental illness.

What are the signs that someone may turn into a shooter? The Times makes another disturbing claim, “With many of the killers, the signs are of anger and disappointment and solitude.”

Anger, disappointment, and solitude. Those emotions are universal. We all feel them. How do we make sense of that? There’s a darkness that creeps up within all of us – and if we are honest with ourselves, we might just admit the horrifying truth that there’s not a lot that separates us from them.

Desire and Resentment

We are all united with a common desire for fame, notoriety, and love. We fear solitude. Everyone wants to be known. We gain a sense of value and worth in our lives through obtaining more likes and tweets on social media. As mimetic theory teaches us, we inevitably compare ourselves with others who become our models for success.

But what happens when we don’t gain the success, fame, or the love that we all desire? When others don’t validate us, when we don’t achieve the success we desire, we become resentful of our models. As Stefan Tomelleri states in his book Resentment: Reflections on Mimetic Desire and Society, “We live in a world where many people, rightly or wrongly, feel blocked, or paralyzed, in all their aspirations, obstructed from achieving their most legitimate goals” (ix).The more we fall behind our models, the more resentful we become. Our model then becomes our rival and we seek some form of revenge against them for enflaming our desire for something we cannot have. Whenever we feel as if the path to fulfillment of our aspirations is being blocked by the ones who make those desires seem desirable, we risk becoming verbally, emotionally, or physically violent.

Typically, no one ever teaches us how to manage our feelings of resentment in nonviolent and healthy ways. In fact, we are taught the opposite. 9/11 taught us that if someone hits you, you hit them back. Only, you don’t just hit them back, you up the ante. You hit them with “Shock and Awe” to destroy the enemy’s will to fight back.

But Shock and Awe has only “worked” to embed violence deeper within our culture. Violence isn’t just “their” problem; it’s our problem. It infects all of us. Almost every day we hear about another violent attack. For example, just two days after the horrific shooting in Oregon last week, the United States bombed a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Afghanistan, killing 12 medical staff personnel and 10 patients, including three children. The U.S. has defended the bombing, while Doctors Without Borders calls it a war crime.

What’s the truth? The truth is that as long as our nation responds to violence with violence, we will continue to sow the seeds of violence and resentment within our nation and around the world.

What’s the Answer?

We need stricter gun control laws, no doubt. But we need so much more than gun control. We need models who will lead us toward a massive shift in our culture. Resentment and violence infects us all and we need to learn better ways to take responsibility to manage our anger, disappointment, and hatred.

God tells Cain that, “sin is lurking at the door; its desire is for you, but you must master it” (Genesis 4:7). God speaks those words to all of us. The truth is that there’s a little bit of Cain within everyone. The darkness is within us all. Unfortunately, many of us are too afraid to look at it. We’d much rather ignore our pain than examine it. But the way to master the “sin that is lurking at the door” is to acknowledge it, but like Cain, we typically suppress it. We bury our resentment and anger deep within ourselves, only for it to manifest through violence.

That’s why the ancient spiritual practice of confession is so important. It’s much healthier to talk out our emotions than it is to bottle them up. Without the ability to talk about our frustrations, we externalize our emotions by blaming others. Our shared desire for fame and admiration can then lead us to commit acts of violence when they become frustrated.

Much more than gun control, we must shift our culture of violence to a culture of peace. We need models who will lead us to move beyond resentment and towards an ethic of love, a love that embraces even our enemies.

The answer is to work through our resentment and come out the other side into love. More than anything, we need to be challenged with a daring and challenging mission. In the face of a culture that responds to violence with more violence, we need more people who will step up and model how to return love for hatred, forgiveness for anger, kindness for hostility, peace for violence.

Photo Copyright: flybird163 / 123RF Stock Photo


The God We Follow: An Unplanned Part 2

Editor’s Note: This is a follow-up to Matthew Distefano’s original article published on Sojourners. That article can be found here. To summarize, that article suggested that God is revealed completely in Jesus as nonviolent and non-retributive. In order to understand those parts of the Bible that attribute vengeance to God, Matthew Distefano suggests we apply the hermeneutic — interpretive lens — of Jesus to scripture.

I did not plan on writing a second part, but one of my friends posed such a great question on Facebook that I had to offer a detailed response. Jim Rogers asked:

I really like this. How might you address it with those who reject the obvious extremes but still get muddled in the literal translations? I am working through this too. I try not to use extreme examples because many will reject such but can’t see their way out of the thorn patch.

To begin answering this question, I would have to take my examples from the global stage to the local one. Sure, we all recognize obvious religious extremes such as the Westboro Baptist Church, Pastor Steven Anderson, and entities like ISIS. However, what are not as obvious are the more restrained examples—the type of subtle violence that one might find in many churches across America.

It can come in the form of voting, campaign donations . . . you name it! Let us take a look.

Since I mentioned Leviticus 20:13 in Part 1, I will use the anti-homosexual “clobber” passage for the first portion of this piece as well.

For the Christian Right—especially here in the United States—this proof-texting favorite (as well as a few others) has dictated their politics vis-à-vis marriage laws. Because of this, the cultural move toward equality for the LGBT community has been painfully slow. Churches large and small continue to attempt to make the moral case for “biblical marriage.” In doing so, they seem to be violating a teaching from the Bible itself, namely Matthew 20. In a July 24, 2015 article, I commented on this:

Jesus also tells his disciples to not declare themselves above the other, but in order to be ‘great,’ they must be servants. (Matt. 20:25 – 28) Jesus himself did not come to be served, but to serve. How is using the political process to enact marriage law based on ‘biblical values’ not ‘lording over another’? In this passage, Jesus invites his disciples to imitate him in serving—putting others ahead of themselves. How can Christians be called to serve all, while at the same time using the political process to interfere with thousands of loving couples (even if they think it is ‘icky’)? How can a follower of Jesus place him or herself over and above anyone, for any reason?

To vote away the right of another in the name of “biblical truth” does not seem compatible with being a leader who serves, as Luke 22:26 states. It is also a form of structural violence, one that does not allow the LGBT person the same civil rights as the heterosexual person.

It is more subtle but still oppressive.

It is as “simple” as a common vote, but its harm is far-reaching.

Just as far-reaching—or even greater—is when one’s hermeneutic directly impacts the foreign policy of a country with a military budget that trumps all others. The Christian Right—at one time spearheaded by President George W. Bush—was all too eager to go to war with Iraq after September 11, 2001. Bush was their guy—a conservative Evangelical who communed directly with God. The President even went so far as to say that God told him to “go and end the tyranny in Iraq.”

While I am confident that the Father of Jesus did not tell the President to go to war with Iraq, I am not so confident that most American Christians would agree with me.

I mean, the Bible clearly says…

  • “Now go and attack the Amalek, and utterly destroy all that they have; do not spare them, but kill man and woman, child and infant, ox and sheep, camel and donkey.”—1 Samuel 15:3
  • “Now therefore, kill every male among the little ones, and kill every woman who has known a man by sleeping with him.”—Numbers 31:17
  • “Then the Lord said to Moses, ‘the man shall be put to death; all the congregation shall stone him outside the camp.’”—Numbers 15:35

Jesus’ Abba said it, you believe it, and that settles it!?

Again, not so fast!

As I discussed in Part 1, the hermeneutics of Jesus are through the lens of mercy and grace. To exegete passages like the ones above—which is not the goal of this piece, so I will not be doing so—we would have to keep that in mind.

What my last goal is, however, is to display how Jesus’ hermeneutics then match his actions. Let us take a look at Matthew 26:53, where Jesus, in the Garden of Gethsemane, rhetorically asks:

“Do you think that I cannot appeal to my Father, and he will at once send me more than twelve legions of angels?”

The implied answer is “yes,” and yet, they stay at bay.

Then, there is what Jesus says in the midst of his own murder on a Roman cross. “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing” (Luke 23:34). Jesus, in doing only what he sees the Father doing (John 5:19, 8:28, 12:49), offers mercy and grace.

And finally, even upon his return, Jesus comes with the word of peace—shalom. John 20:19 – 21 reads:

So when it was evening on that day, the first day of the week, and when the doors were shut where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews, Jesus came and stood in their midst and said to them, “Peace be with you.” And when he had said this, he showed them both his hands and his side. The disciples then rejoiced when they saw the Lord. So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent me, I also send you.”

So, all that being said—what could following Jesus in hermeneutics and in action do to change things on both a local scale as well as a global scale? What would foreign policy look like if supposed “Christian” nations like the United States followed the model displayed by Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane just prior to his death? What if those trying to get in the way of non-violence were rebuked a la Peter in Matthew 16:23? What if retribution was removed from the Divine both exegetically and anthropologically by Jesus? What if the church modeled that?

I believe that a literalist reading of Scripture—as well as a nuanced treatment of Jesus’ ethical teachings—without a doubt, leads to extremists. However, it also has led to a version of Christianity that justifies the use of national violence to get a certain result in the Middle East. It has led to structural violence that oppresses entire groups of people. It has led to many more unforeseen consequences, such as the improper treatment of women as well as the justification of slavery. What we believe about God and Scripture will dictate how we view ethics.

So, Jim (and others), I hope this begins to answer the excellent question you posed above. I hope I began to offer some examples of how a literalist reading of Scripture affects the very world around us. This hermeneutic should be traded in for the Jesus-centered one—biblical ethics interpreted through Jesus’ ethics.

Grace and peace be with you all.

Image: Free Vector From Pixabay

be the change

Be The Change For Peace

Let’s stop a war.

I mean it. You. Me. Our families, friends, communities. Let us come together now and say no more violence. We must have peace.

The photograph of Aylan Kurdi’s body pierces our hearts. The anguished expressions of families piled into boats as the land behind them is devoured by violence haunt our consciences. We turn to our leaders demanding immediate help for those in need, as only the government can help the refugees arrive safely and legally, allowing us to do our part to welcome and care for them. But there is more to do, and we the peacemakers must take the lead. Before we return to our daily routines, while images of war all-too-often forgotten still burn within our souls, let us sow seeds of peace vocally, actively, and resolutely.

As millions struggle to survive losing possessions, homes and loved ones, seeking sanctuary and shelter in foreign lands, President Obama has asked Congress to authorize a resolution that can only produce more destruction, desperation and death. In an article for Counterpunch, Shamus Cooke reports:

Few U.S. media outlets are reporting about the critical  war resolution that the Obama Administration is trying to push through Congress…. The resolution would allow “a 90 day window” for U.S. military attacks in Syria, where both ISIS and the Syrian government would be targeted; with regime change in Syria being the ultimate objective.

As refugees of other US-imposed regime changes struggle to rebuild livelihoods and dignity, we can hardly be surprised when some turn to violence themselves and multiply the violence that our imperialism has generated. We build up or tear down regimes for economic profit with feigned concern for humanitarian interests, as a recent article by Glenn Greenwald, quoting a Washington Post article, explains:

“The countries that cooperate with us get at least a free pass,” acknowledged a senior U.S. official who specializes in Africa but spoke on condition of anonymity to avoid retribution. “Whereas other countries that don’t cooperate, we ream them as best we can.”

The millions of lives destroyed in the process of making a nation more amenable to the interests of the very rich imperial puppeteers is not a chief concern of policy makers. And so even when cases made for war center around human rights violations, we inevitably make nations less stable, hurt more people, and leave not just a power vacuum, but displacement, dismemberment and death, weeping and rage, and a model of imposing one’s will through violence, in our wake. So while our government perpetually creates new enemies, it also creates new public reasons for war and thus new avenues for profiting from control of resources and sale of weapons.

And we are told that the only way to help those suffering and keep ourselves secure is through more war.

For those of us who believe in peacemaking, it can seem hopeless. But we have more power than we realize.

As election season drags on month after month, we are given the impression that the most important issue facing the nation and the world today is whomever will take the reigns of the US executive branch. A good portion of our energy rightly goes toward informing ourselves so we can best exercise our vote. But the fact is, while a new leader will not take office for another 16 months, the world, and especially those suffering, cannot wait for us to sound the cry for peace right now, no matter who holds office.

When even the most progressive of candidates support at least some of the wars and the voices of the hawks drown out the doves, there is a temptation for aspiring peacemakers to resign ourselves to the inevitability of perpetual war. Yet we have the power and the duty to show our will for peace to our current and potential representatives and set the tone for peace for the policy makers to follow.

Warmongering rhetoric and policies of distrust and hostility, both foreign and domestic, have fomented a climate of fear that spreads like a contagion. Absorbing the us-versus-them mentality nurtured by policy makers and echoed by media, we mimetically and unconsciously reinforce this climate of fear. And just as a culture of fear manifests itself in millions of insidious ways, like nurturing a suspicion of even children of a particular race or religion, a culture of empathy must be cultivated by moment to moment decisions to see the human face of the person standing before us. If fear spreads like a contagion, compassion is a cure released into the network of our humanity, also spreading mimetically. We must choose to see the good in someone before critiquing the bad and constantly be wary of the log in our own eyes. Small acts of courage and kindness and humility performed over and over can break down the barriers of fear that have been constructed around our minds and hearts. The day-to-day work of grace will gradually repair the damage done by the daily assault of fear.

But this gradual work, though necessary, is not enough when people are dying right now. When the status quo is perpetual war, when leaders strive to channel even compassion into acts of aggression through the mythology of “humanitarian intervention,” peacemakers must speak up. Peace in our time requires large-scale mobilization as well as day-to-day, moment-to-moment choices for kindness. When the macro and the micro work in tandem, both will gather mimetic momentum. 

So what can we do today, on this International Day of Peace, and tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow, to end war — in Syria, Afghanistan, Yemen, Iraq, and all over the world?

First we must stop the war of propaganda against hearts and minds by exposing the lie of “humanitarian” violence. Even if motives were honorable, even if there were not conclusive evidence that the United States’ government exploits humanitarian concerns for profit and control, we must counter the myth that there can be such a thing as “noble” violence. Beyond exposing documented evidence that “humanitarian” wars have a track record of leaving nations worse off than they were before and unmasking the true interests behind such interventions, we must counter “conventional wisdom” with common sense. Nations can never be “stabilized” with guns and bombs. Attacks lead to counter-attacks, and if the goal is protection of the people, how many lives must be sacrificed for such “protection?” There is no such thing as a “moderate” fighting force. Good people can believe in violence and take up arms, but the act of killing is always extreme. And there is no one more dangerous than someone who believes wholeheartedly in the righteousness of his (or her) violence.

We must dispel the belief that war is a last resort, because far too often efforts for peace are possible but ignored. The case for peace would be much stronger if the façade of humanitarian motives for war were dropped, so one way to advocate for peace is to unveil the true motives for war in order to dissolve their public support.

And we must channel compassion away from war and toward peace. The truth is, there is so much we can do if we think outside the suffocating box of violence. For immediate help in Syria, we must stop making, supplying and funding weapons. Rick Sterling, cofounder of the Syria Solidarity Movement, says,

A solution to the Syrian refugee crisis is possible. It would involve outside powers giving up their demand for ‘regime change’ and stopping their support, training and funding of violent opposition groups. There could be an internationally enforced agreement with guarantees for the right to peacefully protest and elections. What is needed is to stop the violence and allow for the start of reconciliation and rebuilding without preconditions.

If we can channel our sorrow and empathy for those fleeing their countries into demands for peaceful negotiations, we can potentially influence leaders toward policies that could save rather than destroy lives.

Beyond demands for immediate peaceful negotiations, much must be done to repair environments ravaged by war. Much must be done to restore the health, livelihoods, confidence, and futures of the people whose lives have been uprooted. It starts with an acknowledgement of our damage and a sincere apology. And from there we go on to the work of making reparations. We should channel our good intentions into good actions by repairing homes, schools, and businesses, providing healthcare, and working on ways to repair land damaged by bombs and poisoned by blood. We should steer our ingenuity away from developing weapons toward working on desalination technology to provide fresh water to a dangerously dehydrated region. And we should offer these services without charge to the people whose lives our government has stolen. To go into a war-damaged land unarmed with a completely peaceful mission is a risk, but the risk is much less than our leaders, seduced by the power of violence, would have us believe. As peacemaker Kathy Kelly has pointed out in numerous articles writing from war-torn countries, when you give people the services they need, chances are they will not harm you. Quoting Luca Radaelli, the medical coordinator of the Kabul hospital in an Italy-based network of free hospitals called “Emergency,” Kelly writes:

 If you provide something good, something skilled, and it is free of charge… there is no need to protect yourself. People won’t get angry. … What’s so complicated?

Such reparations are not only uncomplicated, they are essential for the healing of our souls as well as the healing of those whom we have harmed. And they are essential to our national and global security, because the converse is also true: If you take away a country’s livelihood and leave the people without family, friends, and futures, those people will often turn to violence. We have the means to reverse this horribly predictable cycle. Every current policy maker and political hopeful should hear the message loud and clear: No discussion of national security is complete without discussing concrete ways of turning people we have made our enemies into our friends by being a friend.

Peace cannot wait. The worst refugee crisis since the end of World War II will only get worse if wars continue to be waged for any reason. We have no excuse to wage war when the humanitarian cover for our government’s actions is ripped away and it becomes clear that destroyed human lives are used as stepping stones to power and control of resources.  And even if we could shut our hearts to the people immediately harmed by imperial greed, we cannot escape the fact that the extraction of resources, and the destruction of land and people that comes with attaining them, is destroying our ecosystem. At a time when our planet is in peril from climate change, we cannot afford to wage wars anywhere. We are living on a sinking ship and we’re all in the same boat.

I have no illusions that the struggle for peace will be easy. But the words of Dr. King have never been more true: “It is no longer a choice between violence and nonviolence in this world; it’s nonviolence or nonexistence. That is where we are today.” And I believe in the power of compassion to stem and reverse the tide of violence. Violence is a powerful contagion, feeding off of our insecurities and mimetically infecting the whole human race. But love is more powerful still. Love pulls us together, drawing on our innermost desires implanted in us by the One in whose image we are made. That desire is that none of us should perish, that we all may have life and have it more abundantly. That can only happen if we put our weapons down. Now.

So on this International Day of Peace, let’s stop a war. Let’s stop all war forever.

Image: Stock Vector by Mihai Maxim via Quote by Mahatma Gandhi.


A Question From Afghanistan: “Can We Abolish War?”

Editor’s Note: This article, written by Dr. Hakim, was submitted by contributing author Kathy Kelly of Voices for Creative Nonviolence.
Hadisa, a bright 18 year old Afghan girl, ranks as the top student in her 12th grade class. “The question is,” she wondered, “are human beings capable of abolishing war?”

Like Hadisa, I had my doubts about whether human nature could have the capacity to abolish war. For years, I had presumed that war is sometimes necessary to control ‘terrorists’, and based on that presumption, it didn’t make sense to abolish it. Yet my heart went out to Hadisa when I imagined her in a future riddled with intractable violence.

Hadisa tilted her head slightly in deep thought. She listened attentively to different opinions voiced by fellow Afghan Peace Volunteers. She struggles to find answers.

But when Hadisa turns up at the Borderfree Afghan Street Kids School every Friday to teach the child breadwinners, now numbering 100 in morning and afternoon classes, she lays aside her doubts.

I can see her apply her inner compassion which rises way above the war that is still raging in Afghanistan.

Hadisa, like 99% of human beings, and the more than 60 million refugees fleeing from military and economic wars, usually chooses peaceful, constructive action rather than violence.

“Dear students,“ Hadisa says, “In this school, we wish to build a world without war for you.”

Her street kid students enjoy Hadisa’s teaching. What’s more, away from the rough and unpredictable streets of Kabul, they find the space at the school affirming, safe and different.

Fatima, one of Hadisa’s students, participated in the very first street kids’ demonstration in Kabul demanding a school for 100 street kids. In subsequent actions, she helped plant trees and bury toy weapons. In another two days, on the 21st of September, the International day of Peace, she will be one of 100 street kids who will serve a lunch meal to 100 Afghan labourers.

This action will launch #Enough!, a long-term campaign and movement initiated by the Afghan Peace Volunteers to abolish war.

Wow! What practical learning!

If the street kids were taught erroneous ways, and became ‘terrorists’, would the solution be to eventually ‘target and kill’ them?

I couldn’t bear to think of it, and am more and more convinced, like Hadisa and the Afghan Peace Volunteers, that killing those labelled ‘terrorists’ by waging war against them doesn’t work.

If our brother or sister was violent, we wouldn’t think of killing them to reform them.


Habib, with pen and paper, making an invitation list of 100 Afghan labourers with whom he and other Afghan street kids will share a meal.

I was in the class when the question was first posed to the street kids: “To whom would you wish to serve a meal?” Hands went up like love and hope blooming for the new Afghan generation, and Habib, an older street kid who was Hadisa’s student last year, echoed along with many others, “The labourers!”

I felt immensely moved, having seen a definite glimmer of our human capacity to care for others, rather than exercise hate, discrimination, indifference or apathy.

Yesterday, Habib helped his volunteer teacher, Ali, to invite labourers to the meal on the 21st. As I filmed and photographed Habib taking down the names of Afghan men much older than him, I felt renewed faith in our human ability to do good, and a warm, tender feeling overwhelmed me.

With people like Hadisa, Fatima, Habib and the many wonderful young Afghans I’ve met, I know that we can abolish war.

For their sake and the sake of human kind, we should work together with much patience, and all of our love.

Habib says #Enough!

Habib says #Enough!

In 1955, after two world wars and the loss of at least 96 million people, Bertrand Russell and Albert Einstein wrote a Manifesto, saying, “Here, then, is the problem which we present to you, stark and dreadful and inescapable: Shall we put an end to the human race; or shall mankind renounce war?”

After finishing the invitations, as we were walking along the very streets where Habib used to take the weight of pedestrians to earn some income for his family, I asked him, “Why do you want to end war?’

He replied, “Ten persons killed here, ten persons killed there. What’s the point? Soon, there’s a massacre, and gradually a world war.”

Top Image: Hadisa, now convinced of the possibility of abolishing war, says #Enough!” All images were submitted with the article.

Dr Hakim, ( Dr. Teck Young, Wee ) is a medical doctor from Singapore who has done humanitarian and social enterprise work in Afghanistan for the past 10 years, including being a mentor to the Afghan Peace Volunteers, an inter-ethnic group of young Afghans dedicated to building non-violent alternatives to war. He is the 2012 recipient of the International Pfeffer Peace Prize.


Dear Mr. President: About The Refugee Crisis

Editor’s Note: This is a guest article by Frances Fuller. 

On a day when I could not watch television without weeping, a day when Pope Francis had issued a challenge and Angela Merkel had opened the doors of Germany, I addressed this letter to the President of the United and States:

What’s the plan, Mr. President?  What is the USA going to do about that tidal wave of people looking for a place to be?

We owe the refugees a home, because we did a lot to create the chaos from which they are fleeing.  We know it. And now that our hearts are broken by images of dead children and weeping fathers and women lying down on railroad tracks in hopes of stopping a train, we have to do something kind and constructive or we will die of guilt and shame. 

We have empty bedrooms and full pantries, but we can’t offer them to refugees unless they can get here and unless our immigration department will give them visas.  So send airplanes to get them.  Open the doors. Step up and speak up, like Pope Francis and Angela Merkel.

We are sick of war, Mr. President.  Give us a plan for building the world.  Then get in front and see us follow.


I wrote for them, the people of the Middle East who have lost everything.

Having lived in the Middle East for thirty years and in the process enduring several wars, I identify with the people. Jordanians, Lebanese, Syrians, Iraqis, Egyptians and Palestinians, Yemenis and Moroccans are real human beings to me: friends, co-workers, neighbors.  I have eaten with them and prayed with them and argued with them.  They have rescued me when I was in trouble. They are real people. And I know something about what they have endured and why Syrians and Iraqis are running away. I know what it means to flee. My husband and children and I were once refugees in the strange city of Tehran, wondering if we would see our possessions again. I have left my home in Lebanon hurriedly with a small suitcase and slept in the basement of the building where we worked.  I know what it is to accept that one may not survive the night. Exiled to Cyprus, I prepared breakfast for anybody who showed up, while my husband met the boat from Lebanon and brought home friends and strangers. We took reluctant but grateful emigrants with visas to the airport where they wept over the finality of leaving home. I know these refugees. They are real people, hurting people with names and stories.

On television we see them running. Time is not on their side. Someone will catch them. Trains will leave. Borders will close. Quotas will be filled. They will run out of money, shoes, diapers, and food, run out of strength, health, options, hope. With nothing left in their hands, they will be captured behind a fence or a wall or a heartless policy. People with education and skills and dreams will accept a tent and live off charity in a place where their children have no citizenship and can’t go to school. There they will harbor anger and fear and resentment; some of them will inevitably become new enemies of those who bombed and robbed them and also those who refused them. Knowing all this, they are in a hurry, and I am in a hurry.

I wrote to the president for these desperate people.  And also for some Middle Easterners who still have their home and country, especially the good people of Jordan and Lebanon who did not shut their doors or their hearts against refugees, even against their enemies, and have given until they have nothing left. I was living in Lebanon when 30,000 Syrian troops occupied the streets, controlling our every movement, stealing, imposing taxes and looting the economy of Lebanon.  Driven away finally by a massive revolt of the Lebanese people in 2005, they came back eight years later, frightened, hungry and homeless, and the Lebanese took them in. Both of these countries have enemies on their borders as well as the stress of refugees within.  And both have reasons to be wary of alien populations. Their example has left us with no excuses.

Finally I wrote to the president for us Americans, another people who are in grave peril.  We are in danger of keeping our blessings and losing our souls. As individuals, of all faiths and none, we have bought into the world Eisenhower warned us of: the military-industrial establishment.  We have put our faith in armies and bombs, imitated our enemies and become like them. Equating war with patriotism, we have let our country become the bully of the world. We have believed the lie that we are special, exceptional, chosen by God. And, in spite of it all, we are afraid.  Afraid of losing our wealth and privilege. Afraid of sharing the good life.

We are guilty and in need of forgiveness.  We use “shock and awe” to scare people and don’t even notice that this is the terrorism we think we hate. Ignoring the lessons of history, we depose rulers we don’t like without thinking about the consequences for innocent citizens of the despot’s country.  One hundred years ago England, reputed to be a Christian nation, attacked the Ottoman Empire at Gallipoli, and on that day the expulsion of the Christian Armenians began.  Forgetting to learn from that, we invaded Iraq and let the Christians and other minorities pay the price.   When we see the refugees running, we know that we are part of the reason they are frightened and seeking a home.

I wrote to the president because time is running out for us too. We are on the verge of becoming what we do not want to be.  The American people are good and generous and spiritual people.  We want to build the world, not destroy or even dominate it. We don’t want to wake up and discover that the face of the Statue of Liberty is red with shame and the God we say we trust does not want to claim us, because we have not loved our neighbor.

Right now people all over this country are working together, opening their purses and finding ways to do something.  They saw a little child washed up on a beach and suddenly they understood what I understand, that these are real and beautiful people.

But we need our government.  We are here, the children of Irish potato farmers fleeing poverty, of Lebanese fleeing war, of Jews fleeing death camps, Chinese fleeing Communism, Iranians fleeing extremism, whoever and whatever, we are here because of a government policy that let us come.  The country had a plan not long ago.

I am asking Obama for a plan, a policy, a humane program to save the Middle East refugees and the soul of America.

Image: Photo: Flickr, Mobilis In Mobili, Liberty, Creative Commons License, some changes made

FrancesFrances Fuller spent thirty years in the violent Middle East and for twenty-four of those years was the director of a Christian publishing program with offices in Lebanon. She is the author of In Borrowed Houses: A True Story of Love and Faith Amidst War In Lebanon, the 2014 winner of “The Author’s Show: 50 Great Writers You Should Be Reading” contest. She blogs


The Age Of Peace Will Be The Age Of The Child

If the era in the history of human evolution that is characterized by the constant outbreak of war can be called the ‘adult period’, then the period in which we will begin to build peace will be the ‘age of the child’. – Dr. Maria Montessori, Education and Peace, 1937

The Great War that engulfed Europe from 1914-1918 was a bitter disappointment for the peace movement. As the 19th century came to a close, the promise of progress that accompanied Darwin’s discovery of the evolution of life on earth seemed to put peace within our grasp. Progress was the popular byword and always meant a movement toward something better. It was the age of invention and industrialization. Human beings were overflowing with strategies to improve the lives of the poor, the uneducated, the working class and the least and the last among us. The women’s rights movement was flourishing as well, and Dr. Maria Montessori, the first woman in Italy to receive a medical degree (1896) was an outspoken and popular representative of the cause.

But 1914 dashed all that hope. Many are the disappointments in the world today, as well, if your goal is peace. We are witnessing the greatest number of people displaced by violence and war since the second Great War in Europe. Even so, much progress has also been made by movements advocating for the rights of groups excluded from privilege and power. Women, labor, the disabled, LGBTQ, the poor and the sick have all witnessed their rights expand. And yet war continues. We are living in the best of times and the worst of times, it seems, a paradox that causes many of us to careen between hope and despair, unsure of how to move beyond the motion sickness.

But the answer is right in front of us, as close as the tiny hand reaching up to hold ours. Dr. Montessori discovered that “If we were to change the center of civilization from the adult to the child, a more noble form of civilization would arise.” Her perspective seems naïve, does it not? And yet she explains that if we did reimagine our “national interest” as child-centered or aligned our policies with what was best for children,

Then civilization would not develop exclusively from the point of view of what is convenient and useful for adult life. Today progress is sought for, too much and too exclusively, through adult qualities. Thus civilization is based on the triumph of force, on violent conquest, on adaptation, on the struggle for existence and the survival of conquerors… in the construction of society something – some essential element – has been missing… The child has almost disappeared from the thoughts of the adult world, and the adults live too much as though there were no children who have the right to influence them. (Montessori, The Child in the Church. First published in 1936.)

It’s strange to our way of thinking, that children should influence us and not the other way around. But it’s what Jesus advocated. He taught us that the kingdom of God belongs to the little ones and that if we want to enter, we need to become like them. Becoming like them begins with privileging the rights of children over our own, whether we are women or men or laborers or sick or poor, powerful or powerless.

Before we make any domestic policy decision on health care, defense budgets, economics, education, criminal justice, policing, gun policy – whatever the issue we must ask how it will effect the children, and let the answer become the policy. And in international relations if we considered the impact on children before we negotiate agreements on weapons, trade or immigration, before we launch an invasion, orchestrate a coup, drop a bomb or authorize murder by drone, how different our actions would be. We would be less violent and more peaceful actors in the world. Not only would the world be safer for children, it would be safer for us all. The age of peace will be the age of the child.

My two-year-old granddaughter likes to ask her mom, “Where are we going next?” Perhaps that’s a bigger question than she knows, one that deserves our best answer.


Image: Copyright Paylessimages via