Individual Comments on the Peacemaking CSAI
The Congregational Study Action Issue (CSAI) for 2006 - 2010 is "Peacemaking."
Issue: Should the Unitarian Universalist Association reject the use of any and all kinds of violence and war to resolve disputes between peoples and nations and adopt a principle of seeking just peace through nonviolent means?
You are invited to enter your or your congregation's brief thoughts and comments on the above question below. Please limit your comments length and limit your comments to your thoughts and feelings without regard to other comments on this page. Thanks.
Hal Bertilson, Unitarian Universalist Congregation of Duluth
I believe our focus should be on changing the culture. As I tell my students the “problem with aggression is that it works!” That is, in the short run there is a high probability that aggression will get the aggressor what he or she wants. Thus they are reinforced for using aggression, whether they are in interpersonal or international relationships. In addition, there are all those who benefit from aggression—corporations and their stockholders who sell weapons systems, those in the military and civil service who receive promotions for obtaining more funds for the weapons systems, and politicians who experience gains by promoting fear.
If we are not all working to change the culture to find other ways to negotiate needs and to serve interests greater than self-interest, we are doomed. We must create a culture that discourages violence and militarism. While finding peace within one’s self or in one’s local community is important, we all need to be working with other likeminded people in changing our culture to remove the incentives and rewards for violence and oppression. Incremental change, if everyone is involved, can create a culture of peace. Amnesty International might serve as a model. It is the largest human rights organizations in the world and has intentionally shifted its emphasis beyond prisoners of conscience to economic, social, and political rights.
In order to influence policy, rewards, and sanctions to reduce violence and war, members of the culture must influence policy makers. I think that is what David Korten (2006), Michael Lerner (2006), and Riane Eisler (2007) are saying in their critical reviews of patterns of domination and their policy recommendations. I think this is what Richard Gilbert (2000), Sharon Welch (2004), and Paul Rasor (2005) argue in their books on UU responsibility for social action. This is also how I understand the theory and evidence in the psychology of peace that I work in and teach--an approach that emphasizes the reduction of structural violence (poverty, depletion of resources, global warming, nuclear proliferation, etc) as well as direct violence (e.g., Christie, Wagner, & Winter, 2001).
But there is another issue, a process issue, that needs equal attention. Paul Rasor’s discussion of tensions that play out in the way religious liberals seek truth must be addressed by this resolution. First, the UU culture of individualism must give way to a much greater political involvement in the community, local and international. In a sense this is a variation on the feminist theme that the personal is the political. Second, UUs must address their ambivalence with spirituality if we are to be effective in the coalitions needed to change our culture to culture of peace. We must be working with the Catholic Workers, the Christian Peacemakers, the Quakers, etc. Finally our commitment to social justice is constrained by our unwillingness to give up our privilege. That, too, must change. We must commit our bodies, time, and financial resources.
As Sharon Welch noted (2004) there are many potentially useful approaches to culture of peace when we broaden the goal, for example examining social contracts under the lens of feminist and Native America perspectives. It will take this kind of innovative thinking for us to find solutions to our culture of violence and war.
Frank Carpenter, St. John's Unitarian Universalist Church, Cincinnati, OH
Violence and war are inconsistent with our primary UU values of respect for human dignity and compassion. What our primary values commitment means in day to day existence is not always simple or clear. At times we are caught off guard, we may be overwhelmed by fear, or our basic sense of self-preservation may override these values. A response to all situations cannot be predetermined any more than can events themselves be predetermined.
Playing on these ambiguities, advocates of violence perpetuate a culture of deception which undermines our struggle for just peace. Indeed, violence and deception may be inseparable. A primary misconception of violence is that it is the easy way out. Just war arguments are often a cover. Media today are the propaganda arm of hegemonic power. We ourselves may be part of systems of denial that nurture violence.
A common form of denial is the confusion of talk and action, believing that as we have spoken, so we have done something. This apparently is a concern of the 2006 GA Resolution for the Peacemaking CSAI. After the statement asking if we reject all forms of violence, it reads, “Our principles are models for peacemaking yet we act as if violence is more effective than nonviolence in certain situations.” This discrepancy, the Resolution goes on, calls for a clarification of our position. http://www.uua.org/socialjustice/issuesprocess/currentissues/44160/resourceguide/44160.shtml
How effective have been our calls for peacemaking? The 1979 “New Call to Peacemaking” is excellent and clear. Apparently we haven’t followed up; our actions have not conformed. How can we introduce accountability? More than calling on others to change, this CSAI says the time has come for us to change.
Just war and non-violence both, in their most authentic forms, seek to end human suffering brought about by violence. Unitarian Universalists can offer leadership by bringing these two points of view closer together, cutting a new path through the wilderness of violence for peace churches. We can do this by requiring a supermajority whenever the GA votes to support the use of militarily force. We can build a culture of peace, in part, by acknowledging that just war and non-violence share much by calling for GA votes supporting use of force to be approved by 75%. It is only by raising the bar on the use of force that we can bring just war and non-violence into alignment, as well as our deeds with our words. This, it seems to me, is a primary assignment of the 2006 GA vote.
A culture of peace is grounded in accountability. To go beyond systems of denial, which is necessary for ending violence, we need to participate in an on-going self-critical search for truth and meaning. What is most authentic in our tradition, I believe, has been described by Henry Nelson Weiman as ‘creative interchange:’ the open dialogue in which individuals are transformed and meaning laid bare in establishing right relations. Peace is building a permanent compassionate discourse which keeps peacemaking at the center of our mission.
Mac Goekler, UU Church of Kent, OH
We Unitarian Universalist have at times swayed in the political winds of the time, but when it comes to building a culture of peace -- we must be thorough. For us to be peacemakers we have to perform an exacting analysis of not only our history, our ethos, but also our spiritual being. This will require more that a four year study action process. This work will have to be ongoing and a simple statement of conscience will not be enough. We are capable of doing this good work. Starting with a seventh principle -- we have shown the world that we indeed do have an environmental culture. Starting with the women's movement thirty years ago -- we now have more female ministers than male. We will not likely arrive at a solid common culture of peace concept, but we will be certainly better for the effort. We have often tossed about the term "faith in action" and building our own peace culture is factually acting out our faith. What should this culture of peace encompass? Many want to start with inner peace, while others feel that international peace should be our objective. This culture has to include all aspects. Our Mennonite and Quaker sisters and brothers have built their own cultures of peace and these cultures guide them in all their affairs. A culture does not have to be either a doctrine or precise. Is it possible to envision a culture of peace that all Unitarian Universalists can unite behind? It is possible with some effort, much discussion, and possibly some division. We can do this. We need to do this. We are off to a great start.
Mac Goekler, UU Church of Kent, OH
A Culture Of Peace
We are called to build a culture of peace, not just because some good people voted at General Assembly to do so, but essentially due to the actions of our congregations. Our congregations through their beautiful covenants, their mediation practices, their wonderful goals of being in right relationships, they're planting of peace poles, their anti-war protests and resolutions and a myriad other great efforts. We are compelled to develop this culture of peace so that we Unitarian Universalists have grounding for our peacemaking. This Culture of Peace does not arrive with our agreeing on a Peacemaking Statement of Conscience, but instead this important statement launches us all on the path to becoming peacemakers in a cohesive sense. This path is a simple and difficult course. This culture building is best thought of as a covenant with ourselves and all creation. We will have to take a thorough moral and spiritual peacemaking inventory of ourselves as individuals, as congregations, and our association itself. Though this may seem a daunting task, we will be better for each step we take. The action tasks in the Peacemaking Statement of Conscience will bring us to face tough questions. A few of them are:
1.. What level of violence is allowed to stop genocide? 2.. How do we define self-defense? 3.. If our child is physically attacked - how will be react? 4.. Is there such a thing as "Just War"? 5.. How much degradation of the environment can we allow? 6.. Does allowing poverty and hunger to persist degrade us?
Once we know who we are, we then can undertake the goal of deciding what we want to be - the building of the Peace Culture itself.
We have the will to do this. We became a gender neutral denomination, we are on our way to becoming anti-racist, we will succeed in becoming truly welcoming, we have shown the world what we are. And now we define for all to see what a Unitarian Universalist Culture of Peace is.
Adrian Gunn, United First Parish Church (Unitarian) in Quincy, MA
(Non-commissioned officer in the Massachusetts Army National Guard)
"Issue: Should the Unitarian Universalist Association reject the use of any and all kinds of violence and war to resolve disputes between peoples and nations and adopt a principle of seeking just peace through nonviolent means?"
My View: No. The problem with this is is it is an attempt to provide a "simple" universal response to the all problems of human conflict. In my opinion there are cases where the use of violence is necessary or justified. For example, I believe that every person has an inherent, natural right to self defense. States also posses the same, fundamental right of self defense, most recently enumerated in Article 51 of the UN Charter:
"Nothing in the present Charter shall impair the inherent right of individual or collective self-defence if an armed attack occurs against a Member of the United Nations, until the Security Council has taken measures necessary to maintain international peace and security"
If the UUA decided to "reject the use of any and all kinds of violence and war to resolve disputes between peoples and nations" where would that leave the right of self defense? Would the UUA argue that a person does not have the right to use deadly force if that person (or another persons) life was in clear and immediate danger? Would the UUA state the law enforcement officials would no longer be justified to ever use deadly force to defend human life? Would the UUA argue that no state or international body would be justified in the use of force to stop genocide, or protect itself from violent aggression?
I am a proponent of Just War Theory. The use of force to resolve human conflict should always be viewed as a last resort, but the reality is that sometimes it is necessary. Just War Theory, while not perfect (what human institution is?), provides a fairly clear, objective set of criteria that help us decide when the use of force is acceptable (jus ad belleum), provides limitations on how force is subsequently utilized (jus in bello), and ultimately how the transition from war to peace should be made (jus post bellum).
"Should we, the Unitarian Universalist Association and member congregations, adopt a specific and detailed "just war" policy to guide our witness, advocacy, and social justice efforts?"
Yes. "Just War Theory is not a settled doctrine." There are many different versions and interpretations of JWT, so for it to be a useful guide for UUs, the UUA should develop its own specific just war criteria that are in keeping with UU principles.
"Should we, the Unitarian Universalist Association and member congregations, reject violence in any form?"
No. The use of violence, while always tragic, is sometimes necessary to prevent greater injustice or "evil". For example, no amount of non-violent activity would have deterred Adolph Hitler from carrying out his plans of aggressive war and genocide. If it were not for the UN defense of South Korea, there would not be a vibrant , free and democratic state on the Korean Peninsula. Without the NATO intervention in Bosnia and Kosovo, Serbian ultra-nationalists would have been free to continue their policies of ethnic cleansing and genocide without interference (and in fact, a previous "toothless" non-violent intervention of UN Peacekeepers failed to prevent a massacre of civilians in Srebrenica). The lack of any kind of international military intervention in Rwanda allowed one of the worst acts of genocide in modern history to go unchecked.
"How should we, the Unitarian Universalist Association and member congregations, identify the form of humanitarian intervention we will support in a particular situation?"
By developing a UUA Just War policy with specific criteria for the use of military force in war and humanitarian intervention.
Seanan Holland, Meadville/Lombard Theological School, Chicago, IL
Arriving at an Adequate Description of War: As a seminarian, I have recently had the privilege of taking The Art and Ethic of Strategic Peacebuilding. I have also taken Politics, Ethics, and Terror. Along with these academic courses, I am a graduate of the Marine Corps’ Amphibious Warfare School. These experiences have generated an interesting internal dialogue – one that surrounds me with the complexity of the matters of war and peace.
One of the prominent observations I have throughout my readings and discussions is that war remains an object described by assumptions, and that through various assumptions, it is described differently by different authors. The thesis of this short paper is that our ethical response to war hinges on our possessing an adequate and operative description of war. In the scope of this brief paper, I cannot hope to address that issue completely. However, I hope that these observations prompt further discussion around the importance of adequately describing war.
To the extent possible, conversations about war should include and address the following items.
War is an extension of national policy by other (violent) means. War is the use of military force and is violent. War is always in relationship to the society (the people) that a particular war means to serve. War is a non-linear, systems event. The prelude to and conduct of war involves a perceived or actual power gradient across a full or partial range of potentials and capabilities. Throughout history, war has both universal and particular features. War is doctrinal in nature. War is individually experienced.
While there may be several other descriptive statements that can be made about war, this list was arrived at primarily by two criteria. 1) It generally agrees with, and is not in disagreement with, classical theories of war as outlined by Carl von Clausewitz, Sun Tzu, and military doctrinal publications. Many of these elements are also invoked in texts on strategic peacebuilding. 2) Within the propositions of Just War Theory and/or Pacifism, conclusions are sometimes drawn which are conspicuous for their oversight of some real aspect of war. If any of these aspects of war are bracketed or withheld from a conversation about war, a space is created for assumptions that do not stand up to a determined effort to describe either humanity or war.
The thesis upon which this submission rests is that an ethical response to the problem(s) of war hinges on an adequate description of war. If this thesis seems reasonable, then a sense of prophetic awareness and integrity obliges us to establish an adequate description of war. This paper is meant to be a seed for further discussion. I have added a limited explanation to the descriptive statements above. From these brief descriptive points, I hope to promote some conversation toward two ends: 1) that together we can achieve some clarity toward an adequate description of war, and 2) that we will first be able to locate our points of disagreement in the description of war, which would then help us understand each other’s ethical positions regarding war.
War is described by/as:
- An extension of policy by other means o This idea is attributed to Clausewitz as an element of his triune description of war. It points to war as an instrument of a state’s power to achieve its national and political aims. It also points to the level and type of authority (i.e. national, of the state) that initiates war. This idea distinguishes war from other forms of collective and individual violence such as riots, vigilante action, and individual criminal behavior. It should be noted that violence by para-military and mercenary forces complicates the project of defining war.
- The use of military force and violence o This idea is attributed to Clausewitz as an element of his triune description of war. It points to the organized nature of force and violence in war. There are several commentaries about what constitutes sufficient and legitimate use of military force. General Eisenhower’s comment to the effect that the only limit to force is force itself – what you can accomplish and how much force you have at your disposal – seems to be a fairly accurate descriptive statement. The introduction of force to a situation usually changes the mindset of the belligerents rather quickly; relatively extreme propositions such as ‘kill-or-be-killed’, or ‘survival is the most important thing’ become highly operative. However, it should be recognized that because force is very expensive and consequential, militaries do not historically use more force than is necessary to prosecute their aims decisively. It would be incorrect to conclude that the introduction of force automatically introduces unlimited force. - The relationship between the event and activities of war and the society that a particular war means to serve. o This idea is attributed to Clausewitz as an element of his triune description of war. It points to the human and social factors of warfare. On the individual level, participants in war are always in relationship individually to members of the society they serve. On the collective level, the relationship between a society and its wars is always mutually informing.
- A non-linear systems event. o A defining quality of linearity is that it is additive - a given input to a linear system will have an output of equal magnitude. Nature is rarely described linearly, and war does not adhere to linear description. Furthermore, war is not an isolated or extracurricular event. It emerges as a systems event in relationship to other conditions and events in society and humanity. A brief study of complex adaptive systems is helpful in understanding the complex system nature of war. Clausewitz’ triune description of war is inherently non-linear, and hence systemic. An important aspect of this point is that, although war is an extreme, and often localized, piece of reality, it cannot be understood as separate from other aspects of humanity.
- A power gradient (perceived or actual, full or partial spectrum). o This aspect of war may be more particular to modernity than to ancient warfare. It has been said that in ancient warfare, odds of victory were roughly equal for armies of roughly equal numbers. However, especially in modern times, it is important to account for the nature of the power gradient between belligerents if we are to understand why and how a particular war was or will be fought. When the power gradient among nations steepens beyond some threshold, it should be no surprise that war is likely. Furthermore, it should be no surprise that when the power gradient is steep, war will take on an asymmetric (i.e. guerilla or terrorist) character.
- Both universal and local features and aspects. o Throughout history there are some aspects of war that seem to be unchanging. At the most basic level, we can say that war is always violent in some way. However, we must also acknowledge that there are some aspects of war that change over history. A prominent example can be found in the changing nature of weaponry – modern weapons are more lethal at a wider variety of distances than clubs and spears. An illustration of the importance of accounting for the universal and local aspects of war is found in LtCol Dave Grossman’s observation that only in the 20th Century has our logistical ability to wage war surpassed our psychological ability to participate in it. It is important to recognize that treatises on war (such as Sun Tzu and Clausewitz), upon which much of our current military doctrine rests, were codified during a pre-industrial time. Many aspects of modernization and globalization were not yet imagined and certainly could not be accounted for.
- Doctrine that aims to guide the activities of war. o War is doctrinal in nature. The organized nature of war requires participants to have common ways of thinking and behaving – doctrine provides this element of coherency and consistency. Doctrine is also the means by which a military adapts locally to the universal aspects of war.
- An individual experience. o War is individually experienced. Wars are not fought in the abstract or by “armies” that are somehow not composed of real individuals on both sides of the conflict. The moral and ethical dilemmas experienced in war collapse our empathy with other humans (i.e the enemy). The intense reliance on and care for others (i.e. those who we fight alongside) creates unusually strong bonds. The physical and emotional suffering on all sides cannot easily be recovered from. The extreme nature of war frequently over-perturbs the human condition such that one cannot reclaim a previous sense of identity. War changes one’s individual identity.
It would be exhausting to examine warfare from every perspective. However, this list gives us several differing entry points from which we can examine war. By viewing war from several different points, we have a better possibility of understanding it, and of arriving at ethical responses to both war and the conditions that precede it. Our need is to find an adequate, not a complete description of war. And that description should be operative – i.e. shared and understood (even if not entirely agreed upon) among participants.
How do we meet the above two conditions for describing war - adequate and operative? I propose that in order for a description of war to be adequate in our current cultural landscape, it must be agreeable from the perspectives of peace activists, professional warriors, and states-persons. In order for it to be operative, part of our energy – within the CSAI process – should be dedicated to describing war.
I have used elements of this list in presentations regarding peace, war, and ministry. It has slowly evolved. My intended method is to examine each of these descriptive points first from my own personal perspective (which happens to include that of professional warrior). Then I have attempted to notionally examine each point in turn from the perspective of a peace activist, a professional warrior, and a states-person. I found it revealing to ask the question, “What would the consequences be if an activist, warrior, or states-person did not honor one of these descriptive points?” How might our ethical response to war be influenced by excluding some real part of an adequate description of war?
I believe that this process of systematically describing the object or state about which we are making ethical choices is equally important of both war and peace. We will not suffer as a people if we adequately describe war and bring that description into common conversation. We may suffer history’s repetitive mistakes if we do not.
John B. Hooper, The Unitarian Church in Westport, CT and CSW member
Peacemaking from a Religious Naturalist’s Perspective
The conflicts that rage between individuals and groups, within our society, and among cultures and nations are the same conflicts that reside within ourselves - writ large in the world. Each of us lives and breathes today because our ancestor humans and their ancestor species survived the challenging vicissitudes of an impersonal and demanding universe. Research has shown that within our mind-bodies we humans have evolved capacities for both violence and cooperation - as adaptations. These adaptations are partly responsible for the special place we enjoy in the interdependent web of all existence. That we are both warriors and pacifists is not something we have chosen, it is something that is built into our very nature.
However, these capacities for violence and cooperation are not the major reasons that our kind has been so successful on earth. Our evolved brains and sensory networks have acquired such complexity and recursive dynamics that we have been given the gift of consciousness. We know what we are doing and we are able to understand the implications of what we are doing. Neuroscientists tell us that our emotions, feelings, and intellect are inextricably intertwined. They have also demonstrated that we possess the ability to actually “feel” what another person may be experiencing, in both positive and negative situations, by simply observing their behavior. I believe that the major challenge for peacemaking does not lie in our overcoming our inherent propensity for violence. Indeed, if we kill the warrior within ourselves who will cry out for justice? Rather we must build on the uniquely human combination of intellect and empathy, which we as a young species are only beginning to understand. We must do so with humility and care because we are entering unfamiliar territory. However, we must also do it with fierce determination because it may be the only way we (and our brothers and sisters throughout the world) may hope to become more fully human. In fact, it may be the only way we may hope to survive.
Here are some actions, which I believe we, as both peacemakers and religious naturalists, can take:
We can enthusiastically encourage and publicize scientific research that deepens our understanding of evolutionary and developmental factors influencing human behavior in conflict situations.
We can seek to transcend the false dichotomy of just war vs. pacifism by applying our capacities for empathy, understanding, and justice-making to each individual conflict or potential conflict situation that we encounter.
We can each institute religious practices for creating peace within our selves.
We can encourage formal programs aimed at increasing and maintaining compassionate communication in all of our interactions.
We can make sure that our religious education programs are infused with exciting and effective approaches for understanding and encouraging peacemaking.
We can love and support the returning warriors, who have been traumatically affected by the realities of war, by demanding that they receive the full benefit of state-of-the-art psychological and medical science.
We can support those institutions that are working diligently to understand the nature of international conflict and build peace in the world.
We as Unitarian Universalists can become ardent catalysts for peacemaking by partnering with other religious denominations in their peace efforts.
Focusing on prevention as the most effective approach to avoiding violent conflict, we can deepen our understanding of structural violence, addressing its eradication wherever we encounter it.
Most importantly, we must recognize that we are on a profoundly religious quest. We may take a key role in the determination of how devotion to “ultimate reality” will be expressed in our world: through love and understanding, or through “holy” war.
LoraKim Joiner, Unitarian Universalist Fellowship of Gainesville
I would like to see us not just adopt, but make as a highest priority, a principle of committing our shared religious lives to building peace at all levels (intrapersonal, interpersonal, congregational, communities, societal, national, environmental and web of life). Though we are not a creedal church, we are covenantal, and a covenant cannot bring about liberation and transformation in lives and society without the fire of commitment. Therefore I see the Peacemaking Study Action Item not as a Statement of Conscience but as a Covenant of Commitment. We ask ourselves throughout our congregational lives what is ours to do, in this moment, during this breath, to build peace. We ask this so that we might respond not just in matters of violence and war, but in the very fabric of how we live our daily lives.
Glenn E. King, Ministerial Intern, Leominster, MA
As a covenantal non-creedal faith, UUism challenges us by calling us to reject any imposition of doctrine. "Rejection of all kinds of war" and even the affirmation of a "just war theory" are creedal formulations which neither our faith nor I would force on another.
That said, it is my sense that "building a culture of peace" is precisely what our covenantal faith is all about. We are about "right relationship". Building a culture of peace in our congregations will, one hopes, build that culture into the local community and, in time, the world.
I am not happy with the phrase "seeking just peace through nonviolent means." It seems like a situational statement to me, meant to address a current conflict. Building a culture of peace implies to me engaging in daily intentional peacemaking activities regardless of the presence of conflict.
Richard Kopp May 23, 2008
I would like to see the Statement of Conscience be a shorter statement of principles rather than a longer list of programmatic goals. To move forward with UU peacemaking, perhaps “action goals” can be provided in an addendum, perhaps during the following year.
The Statement of Conscience should take as its central article of faith “engaged nonviolence.” Engaged nonviolence (like Paul Rasor’s “prophetic nonviolence”) is based on our reverence for all life. Our deeply held belief in the worth and dignity of every human being requires us to avoid killing in war. We should condemn war as immoral.
I have given up on just war theory. Its principles are used as a rationalization for war, or as a true and obvious justification for the use of lethal force as a last resort in self-defense. Just war theory is inadequate foundation for building peace. The conditional pacifism of engaged nonviolence has no quarrel with a genuine need for self-defense. So much more is needed for peace.
The opposite of pacifism is not “just war”; the opposite is militarism. We need to denounce this misplaced reliance on military force to resolve conflict. We need to speak against continuing and expanding weapons development and arms trade that feed warfare and consume too much national wealth. We need particularly to warn against the spread of nuclear weapons.
The Statement of Conscience should express a passion for peace. We should lift up those who dedicate their lives to all sorts of service in peace building. We need to honor those who refuse to kill another in wartime out of conscience. Peace education should grow in our congregations and camps.
The Statement should speak to creating for ourselves and with others a culture of peace. We should be part of an intercultural and interfaith “Dialogue of Civilizations” so that we may better understand our place among the many peoples at this time in history. We should be guided by a “Golden Rule of Nations” (following the words of Erik Erikson): “We should seek to stimulate and support in another nation or people what will strengthen them in their historical development, as our nation also is strengthened in its own development- all toward a common future in peace, justice and fulfillment.”
The Statement of Conscience should envision changes in personal religious consciousness and in future sociocultural development, moving toward a peaceful world society. These are transformational changes. UU ministers and others should help us grow in a spiritual practice of peace and peacemaking. UU’s should raise up support for the institution and the work of the United Nations as the global parliament of nations and framework for governance and peaceful resolution of conflicts without resort to war.
The Statement should call upon UU’s to create a “Peacemaking Office” within the UUA to nurture the process of peace in all areas of Unitarian Universalism. Such an office, staffed with both volunteers and UUA personnel, would work closely with the Untied Nations Office and the Service Committee and others, and in cooperation with other faith organizations.
Judy Morgan, Wildflower UU Church of South Austin, Texas
I believe that we understand enough now about how to build a culture of peace, that we can reject violence except in extreme situations. The way to build a culture of peace (from what I read on strategic peacebuilding) is through education, healthy economies in which basic needs are universally met, dissemination of communication and conflict resolution skills, effective democratic process, etc.
These are all extremely challenging but we do know how to do them if the resources are made available. For example, there is general agreement that the UN Millennium Development Goals, including reducing extreme poverty by 50% and providing universal primary education by 2015, are achievable, if the international community provides the resources. This would go a long way toward building a more peaceful global culture.
The obstacles to a global culture of peace are not really lack of knowledge about how to do it -- though there is much still that needs to be learned – but really inertia and the political power of those who benefit from a culture of violence. The inertia comes from the sense of helplessness and hopelessness among the many who are pained by the violence in the world but feel there is nothing they can do. The political influence of those who benefit from military expenditures and arms sales (i.e., the ‘military-industrial complex’) on one hand, and on cheap labor and resources in countries with high levels of poverty, on the other hand, has heavily impacted U.S. foreign policy.
To build a political movement for a culture of peace will take a clear vision of the long-term goals and clear strategies for how to achieve them. As the global population grows, and telecommunications increases our ability to share ideas and build grassroots networks, it seems just a matter of time before this global movement happens (unless we end up opting for military approaches that cause global devastation).
It seems that UUs are in the perfect place to articulate a vision and strategies that could advance such a political and cultural movement. We are naturally interfaith, and our forthright inclusion of reason and science as part of our faith makes it possible to speak to both the spiritual and practical aspects of creating such a comprehensive vision.
So, I feel that if the CSAI process can at least lay the beginning groundwork for this development, that would be a huge contribution toward a global culture of peace. Hopefully, the further along we get, the more we will draw people into the process of exploration, consensus-building, and activism, as they feel there really is hope of ‘change’ (the hope for which is currently drawing so many into Barack Obama’s campaign!).
David Pyle, USAR Chaplain Candidate and Coordinator, UU Military Ministries
Creating a Culture of Peace
How can we as Unitarian Universalists best work towards a world where violence is no longer a viable option for humanity, not only as Nation-states but also in our personal lives? How can we work to finally “lay down our sword and shield”?
It will not be done through internal discussions within our Association, nor will it be done through demonstrations and statements that create boundaries between ourselves and the rest of the world. This is how I perceive the original wording of the Study Action Issue on Peacemaking.
"...should the Unitarian Universalist Association (UUA) reject the use of any and all kinds of violence and war...and adopt a principle of seeking just peace through nonviolent means."
Before I begin to answer the questions I began with, let me first situate myself within this discussion. I have been a soldier, and I am becoming a Chaplain. I am the child of a soldier, the grandchild of a sailor, and the great-grandchild of a Medal of Honor winner.
I believe that there is no such thing as “Just War”. The concept simplifies one of the most complex aspects of human nature, this drive to solve problems with violence, carried out among nation-state actors. It is a political sophistry that can be used to justify anything, and it is misdirection that seeks to put responsibility for war on temporary political situations. The execution of war is never for political reasons (no matter what those nation-states may say) but rather it is an extension of the need for violent conflict that rests within every human soul.
There has also never been any lasting thing that we could point to and say “See, that is what Peace is like”. Even when we humans are not actively fighting a war, we are preparing for one. Even if we were not preparing for war, many of us are fighting wars within our own hearts and lives… the wars we fight without are an expression of the wars we fight within.
War is the last form of hell I still believe in. I have walked through that hell in Latin America, and through the aftermath of that hell in Bosnia. I served as a soldier in the “War on Drugs” in the early 90’s, and as a Peacekeeper in Bosnia in 1996-1997. But that hell of war exists within families, within communities, and within each human as well as on the physical battlefields in Iraq, Afghanistan, Sierra Leone, Columbia, Palestine, and indeed around the entire world.
To know more where I am situated in relation to war, please read my sermon entitled “Embedded War”. http://celestiallands.org/phpBB2/viewtopic.php?t=103
The change from a culture based in war to a culture based in peace begins, not with political action, protests, or statements by religious associations… but with personal spiritual practice. If war without is an expression of war within, then the first step in changing the culture of war is to foster that inward change in a growing number of people. I believe that fostering the spread and deepening of religious spiritual practices of inward reflection and contemplation is the first step in creating a culture of peace.
With a growing movement of deeply reflective spiritual practice, the atmosphere will then be right for a cultural shift in what are the guiding principles of our society, away from principles based in conflict and advantage, and towards principles based in interdependence, compassion, and respect. By shifting the foundational principles upon which society is based, we change the dynamic that feeds a culture of war.
Third, and probably the most important step in creating a culture of peace, is the creation and expression of a coherent and detailed vision of what a culture of peace will be like. To motivate and captivate people, we must give them a message not of obligations and fear, but of hope and dreams. We must show what the world will be like when war and violent conflict is no longer the primary form of human interaction.
It is the vision of a world made whole that will inspire cultural change. The key to changing this dynamic of human nature is a change in the human heart, and that does not come from rational argument but from our deepest emotional selves. Creating that vision is a religious responsibility. There are plenty of political peace activists… we need to live our religious vision as prophets.
In essence, I believe the answer to how to create a world in which violence is not used comes not from making a statement, but from living our faith. It comes from being willing to be evangelistic about our Unitarian Universalist faith, not to create more Unitarian Universalists, but to help create better humans. It comes from creating a culture of reflective spiritual practice in our own movement, and then inspiring that practice in others. It comes from both living and promoting our principles and ideals, both as an association and as religious individuals living in society.
I became a Unitarian Universalist because I believe its principles and values, combined with the religious impulse within humanity, to be the last best hope we have to save ourselves from the many ways we are courting disaster as a species.
If we want to create a culture of peace, then let us practice peace within our own spirits first, then within our families, within our congregation, within our communities, within our religious association. Only when a growing number of us adopt peace as a way of life will we begin to change the culture of the world in which we live. Not through words or statements, but through the spiritual practices of our lives, through the living and promotion of our ideals and principles, and through an articulated and promoted vision of what the world will be like in a culture of peace.
Larry Shafer, First Parish in Wayland, MA (Sponsoring Congregation)
Acknowledging our “invitation to the table through our radical tolerance”
The Islamic connection of “war” with “lesser jihad” is symptomatic and also insightful for understanding what Paul Rasor seems to have proposed in his UU World article. In describing his notion of “prophetic nonviolence”, he notes UU’s have some work to do in “catching up” with the prophetic edges of Christian witness since the Second Vatican Conference. We have succeeded certainly in distinguishing ourselves in the arena of traditional ideals of individualism, but have only begun to see the emerging influences of both religiously ecumenical and emerging scientifically based trends in understanding the intrinsically multifaceted character of religious (and anti-religious) thought. Though that viewpoint (still) maintains the lines of complex and intrinsically “syncretic” cultural understandings of the “category violations” the Renaissance associated with pursuing a secular tradition originally based on Western classicism, it blurs the potential emerging syntheses of notions of self and world developing since at least the 1960’s in bringing our cultural evolution (seen as still evolving) to embrace potential unities of apprehension in our dominant (at least tripartite and maybe intrinsically multifaceted) cultural modalities.
Not just in the inherited Christian world but increasingly in Islamic and even more traditionally Eastern traditions, this seems (to some anyway) the crux of our current shared “multicultural” situation, whether anxiously codependent or radically unifying for our culturally based notions of identity-based difference and similarity. The solution as usual is more dialogue, as if that could ever not be the case for Unitarian Universalists, in restating and re-empowering the basis of our praxis of dialogue, moving toward the reconciliation of self and other that drives our anxious and error-prone (but always “sincere”) participation in perhaps a more radical fusion of religion, psychology and political concerns than any other particular religion we can find: by finding ourselves we find (ultimately) the other that is within and without that is the eternal in all our forming traditions. Let it be so and let us continue, as easy to say and as impossible to achieve as that may be: for in having each other we insist on having all through our prophetic selfhood. That was where we left this issue in the reformation, and where we still strive to be the source of a new revelation in human possibility. May it always be so.
Alex Winnett, Program Associate for Peacemaking, UUA Washington Office for Advocacy
After nine months of working specifically on peace in the UUA, I have had quite a few realizations about what, exactly, makes UU peacemaking special. UU peacemaking has its challenges and its strong points. Mostly due to a lack of inherently pacifist theology and the West’s lack of proper language of conflict resolution, Unitarian Universalists have a difficult relationship with peace, violence, and justice. However, if we were to claim a “Theology of Conflict” and learn how to embrace the growing points that come with conflict, we can move beyond the violence of our world into fostering a Beloved Community. Unlike traditional peace churches—for instance the Quakers, Mennonites, and Bretheren—Unitarian Universalists do not have a peace centered creed. More specifically, UU’s do not have a Christ-centered peace testimony. Quakers and Anabaptists believe in the model of Christ, the pacifist. UU’s covenant—they promise—to work for peace, but pacifism is arguably not an explicit requirement to be a UU. We promise to affirm and promote the inherent worth and dignity of all people. We promise to follow our paths to individual truth through a responsible search with others. We promise to respect the interdependent web of all existence, of which we are all a part. And we covenant to work for a “world of peace and justice for all”, but what does our UU theology say about peace? How does our belief in the nature and condition of the universe guide our path toward a culture of peace and justice? I propose we need, what I call, a Theology of Conflict. UU’s believe that humans have free will and self-determination. These are divine gifts that allow us to use reason and logic to discern our relationships with the divine and each other. Unfortunately, free will and self-determination does not come without a price. These gifts can put us into conflict when our needs, desires and expectations differ from that of ourselves or others. Great powers also come with great responsibility; to honestly and truthfully discern our paths in relationship to the good of ourselves and the community. I strongly believe the best way for UU’s to build a culture of peace is to not run from conflict, but embrace it as a gift. Conflict is an opportunity for all humans to increase their humanity and their connection with the divine. We can accomplish this by working with our conflicting parties, rather than against them. If the other has inherent worth and dignity, is part of our global community, and is entwined in the interdependent web of all existence; their personhood is our personhood. Their growth is dependent on ours. Their feelings of hurt, injustice, and need for retribution are ours in return. We work for this relationship with an openness to listen, a willingness to grow, and a thirst for accountability. This can take many forms—conflict mediation trainings, non-violent communication groups, affinity groups, and civil society organizations. Unitarian Universalists believe in the inherent worth and dignity of every person. This means more than simply not demonizing the other. Instead, it means working for justice. It is about trusting other people to be careful with your own vulnerability. It is about caring for their vulnerability. It is not just believing in their worth in dignity, but trusting in it as well. As we work for peace, we must not just protest injustice but love the fragility of the world. To be open and listen to all points of view in order for all to be changed by the process is the root of peacemaking. After, as the Universalists believe, we are saved by community—therefore, we must allow community to save us. This is the basis of the Beloved Community; a world where our mutual vulnerabilities and fragility can save us all. As Alan Paton said in Cry, the Beloved Country, “…there is only one thing that has power completely, and that is love; because when a man [sic] loves he [sic] seeks no power, and therefore he [sic] has power.”