Texas Pathmarks to Peace
By Greg Moses
CounterPunch / GlobalResistanceNetwork / DissidentVoice
Results from last Sundayâ€™s election at the Cathedral of Hope in Dallas (and its branch in Oklahoma City) have yet to be officially announced, but itâ€™s safe to predict that Rev. Dr. Jo Hudson will win the congregationâ€™s endorsement as senior pastor to the largest gay, lesbian, and transgender congregation in the world. When linked to the November general election of Lupe Valdez as Dallas County Sheriff, the election of Dr. Hudson this week may not signal a clear trend toward lesbian leadership in North Texas, but it is another pathmarker in hard country, and therefore a sign worth noting.
â€œDr. Hudson, where are you?â€ asks the famous Mennonite pacifist John K. Stoner on a recent Friday evening from the podium of the Cathedral of Hope. In the pews, there are about 100 of us, and weâ€™re all looking around for new leadership. Hudson raises her hand from the middle of the cavernous sanctuary, where she sits with her partner, the couple visually marked out by their matching leather jackets. â€œWelcome to your church Dr. Hudson!â€ jokes Stoner as the audience chuckles along.
Stoner, with 30 years of peace activism behind him, is working on a project named Every Church a Peace Church (ECAPC), and this is his first official try at converting the religious economy of Texas into a peace faith. If ever there was a peace church ready to bloom, it would be the Cathedral of Hope. Since 1970, this congregation has grown from a Metropolitan Community Church of 12 members into the free-standing phenomenon that it is today (with live attendance in Dallas now about 1,500 per week and many more who watch on the web). Some day soon this sanctuary of white stone will become a full-time peace center, as the church grows again into a planned 11-story structure, designed by the late Philip Johnson. Hudson, the soon-to-be Senior Pastor looks around at the applauding crowd, smiling.
â€œAnd where is Dan Peeler?â€ asks Stoner. Peeler is Minister of Children and Families at the Cathedral and a member of the church’s Order of St. Francis and St. Clare. Weâ€™ll see the order again Saturday afternoon during closing services, dressed in long brown robes, reading prayers from Buddhist, Moslem, African, and Native American traditions, lighting candles, giving out peace stones. They handle the logistical work of this conference, answering emails, covering the registration table, and generally moving folks from one thing to the next.
â€œWhose voice are you listening to these days?â€ asks Stoner. â€œWhose voice do you trust?â€ The audience feels the problem, responds with a few long groans. So Stoner quotes Martin Luther King Jr., a still trustworthy voice. Itâ€™s okay to talk about long white robes in heaven, said King once upon a time, so long as we get shoes on peopleâ€™s feet down here.
Next up is Baritone Anthony Brown, who sings the barefoot songs of America, created back in the day when fiery white preachers shouted long sermons about white robes, but couldnâ€™t care less who had shoes. African American spirituals answered that insanity with self-centering resistance, singing right through the official religions of slavery. Talk about no time like the present? Is it any wonder that the psychotherapist professor of social science, who now teaches at a Mennonite community college in Kansas, feels the relevance of his songs returning?
Primordial nature is what Professor Brown says his songs intone. Raw faith is what it sounds like to me: a defiant commitment to something nowhere in sight yet everywhere necessary, like freedom in 1805, justice in 1905, or peace today. Singing, â€œOh Lord, waitin on you; Canâ€™t do nothin til the spirit comes,â€ Brown breathes the prayer of an entire people who during the last election went 88 percent the other way. Without mystery or surprise, Brownâ€™s singing bears witness to steadfastness. I find it impossible to suppress an association with Paul Robeson. Next time white folks ask out loud, where are the people of color in our coalitions, I will have a simpler answer. Ever listen to yourself sing?
Next up is Michael Westmoreland-White the gregarious Baptist peace activist and outreach coordinator for ECAPC who once as a young soldier memorized the Sermon on the Mount (blessed are the meek, the merciful, and the peacemakers) until the words sunk in so deep that the military discharged him. His job tonight is to introduce the keynote speaker, but he says a few words about his own autobiography of pacifism first and how he came out of the Anabaptist tradition of peace churches, inspired by writings of the late John Howard Yoder whose 1972 book on The Politics of Jesus is most highly revered.
And so it is time for Professor Glen H. Stassen, son of the same Harold Stassen who in 1943 resigned from his third term as Minnesota Governor to join the Navy and then after World War II helped to organize the United Nations as a way to deter war. For son Glen, who is Professor of Christian Ethics at Fuller Theological Seminary in Pasadena, there is a personal pain that he feels watching the current President tear down the international institutions that elder Stassen helped to build. Will history redeem the futile image of the fatherâ€™s later career whose incessant campaigns for president are best known by the years he did not run? Son Glen has organized impressive arguments why the internationalist route proposed by the Stassen family should yet be preferred.
Stassen begins with local history. The Dallas Peace Center, founded in 1981 by the Peace Mennonite Church was first of its kind in the country. (In the house tonight is Peace Center director Lon Burnham who doubles as a state representative from Fort Worth and Pastor Dick Davis of the Peace Mennonite Church.) Stassen then points south toward the city of Waxahachie, home of the Pentecostal Peace Fellowship, which with a name like that is bound to be out spreading word. So really, quips Stassen, this is peace country! Thanks to Stassen we can see a few more path-markers on our way.
â€œWe have a better answer,â€ says Stassen, previewing the central thesis of his talk. As a scholar of Christian Ethics for decades, Stassenâ€™s central insight is that ethics of prohibition do not work. In the Sermon on the Mount for example he finds a subtle structure of advice that instead of saying stop that, encourages profound alternative choices. So instead of the peace movement saying no war, no violence, no bombs, there should be persistent pleas for making alternative choices. Every time we say we have a better answer, we have a better chance of convincing more people to listen.
His life work as a scholar has come to fruition around a theory called â€˜just peacemaking,â€™ designed conceptually as an alternative to â€˜just war.â€™ Stassenâ€™s first book-length treatment of just-peacemaking theory was published in 1992, and it bears the marks of fresh frustration from not being able to stop father Bush from starting the First Gulf War. Back then, the peace community again got caught chanting a simple no war prohibition, when already we should have known better than that.
As if memories of Gandhi and King werenâ€™t enough to teach us that peacemaking is about a persistent program of active alternatives, the world had more recently eyewitnessed a Revolution of Candles powerful enough to dismantle the Berlin wall. Stassen was there when that happened. And like many contemporaries, he watched news reports of similar achievements in nonviolence history as Marcos was removed from the Philippines and the Shah from Iran. Couldnâ€™t those same methods have been used against Hussein of Iraq? There was a better way.
As a two-time wrestling champion, Stassen says it is important that people come to feel secure in their own strength so that they are not afraid to appear weak from time to time. Just peacemaking, says Stassen, requires leadership that can clearly acknowledge personal responsibility for things that go wrong. Leaders who are afraid to appear weak, who need to blame everything on someone else, who always see the world in terms of evil others and pure selves–those leaders make lousy peacemakers. From sounds the audience is making, Stassen knows they know who heâ€™s talking about.
In contrast to leaders today, who bully and bomb, Stassen is quite seriously encouraging policy commitments motivated by the Sermon on the Mount, guided by modesty, mercy, purity of heart, and peacemaking. Such leadership would be international in outreach and interdependent, not like the treaty-smashing, UN-bashing unilateralists that crowd our television screens these days.
Consider the contrast between Turkish approaches to the Kurds and Russian responses to the Chechnyans, two examples of Muslim inspired independence movements. In Chechnya, says Stassen, we see a scorched-earth policy of strong leadership that never wavers from its appearance of rock-hard masculinity. Yet the terrorism continues. In Turkey, on the other hand, we find a doubling of per-capita spending in Kurdish neighborhoods, engagement with Kurdish tribal structures, and a parliament where Kurdish representatives exceed their proportional numbers. In this case, terrorism has receded.
But we canâ€™t reward the terrorists like that! Stassen imitates the slogan of reaction. But addressing grievances of people does not assist terrorists. When grassroots get their needs met through constructive channels, it is the terrorists who wither away. Continue to stomp the people, says Stassen, and daily you drive new people into the terroristsâ€™ arms. Just look at Israel.
Another pathmarker worth noting: Sojourners editor Jim Wallis has been on tour in Texas lately promoting his bestsellter book on Godâ€™s Politics, arguing that the right is all wrong about religion. In Austin, for example, Wallis drew a standing-room crowd. Of all places to meet, Stassen and Wallis wind up together in Waco. They were up until one in the morning Central Baptist Time talking about Christian ethics. Sometimes you want to be a fly on the wall. Did they talk about Reno and Koresh?
â€œIâ€™m so glad Glen deals with all these details, putting things together in a very linear way,â€ says Karen Horst Cobb, the Santa Fe artist who has become a global internet sensation for her Common Dreams article last October entitled No Longer a Christian. She is responding to Stassenâ€™s talk, explaining why she has moved beyond religion into peacemaking.
â€œYou know the first time he came, people were expecting that Christ would be a conqueror; there were so many who missed Jesus because of their preconceived notions,â€ says Cobb. â€œAnd when I hear the talk about End Times today, I think that again people may be letting their preconceived ideas get in the way. The Bible says pretty clearly that Jesus is the Prince of Peace.â€ On Saturday afternoon, Cobb will return to the podium to present her nonlinear message, that fear of isolation is our root problem. To address it, she will argue, we most crucially need courage for deeper love.
During question period for Stassen a Lutheran minister speaks of his efforts to resist the mad, self-righteous blindness and pall that lately have been coming out of his people, as if something lurking within them has been turned loose. And now the headlines say weâ€™re not going to attack Iran, yet? The minister wants to know, is there any way that we can get a vaccination for this?
Stassen says he had made a careful study of public opinion in times of war. This hysteria always marks the first phase, and it is fed in three ways. For 20 percent of the people, nationalism is enough of a motivation. Just talk about our need to band together as a nation. Another seventeen percent defer to presidential authority, and this number quickly doubles as soon as troops are involved, because then they support the president and his troops. Finally, another sixteen percent are motivated by fear of threat, which takes you to about 53 percent majority in favor of war before the troops are shipped off.
To just say no in the face of this mob will never work. You have to argue that there is a better way. Stassen says the argument for more weapons inspection worked well enough during the buildup to Iraq and people were sufficiently persuaded to let the weapons inspectors do their jobs. Then the official motive for war shifted to displacing a dictator for democracy. Although Stassen doesnâ€™t finish the point this evening, he has said enough to imagine how the peace movement might have said, we have a better way for this, too.
When the war administration shifted its rationale to displacing a dictator, there was no international institution similar to the weapons inspection structure that could stand up and say give us a chance to do that. So the anti-war movement got caught defending Iraqâ€™s sovereign right to dictatorship. We just said no war. Yet, we already knew enough about Berlin, Marcos, and the Shah to make a credible case that dictator displacement is also possible through concerted nonviolent means. When the administration shifted its argument to bringing democracy to Iraq, we could have said there is a better way.
But the people are simply brainwashed argues another questioner. What can be done until the whole bunch have been completely re-educated? In every church, answers Stassen, a small group can get to work right away. It only takes a few people to call regular meetings, talk about just peacemaking, invite speakers, communicate with other peace groups, and this kind of activity makes a difference. These few people can begin the process of taking Jesus back from those who have hijacked him.
What about Afghanistan? asks another activist. Again, we could have talked about a better way of confronting terrorism, one that does not kill innocent civilians, a policing approach combined with humanitarian development. And Iraq today? Stassen has just completed a long memo to Peace Action arguing that â€œjust get outâ€ is the moral equivalent of â€œjust say noâ€ and it just wonâ€™t work. Instead, we need to speak of a better way, one that recovers internationalist commitments to the United Nations and human rights.
Used to be a time, Stassen reminds us, when he could teach Southern Baptist seminary students and argue that there are two kinds of religion: authoritarian and compassionate. And he could of course encourage them toward the compassionate kind. But these days the Southern Baptists wonâ€™t hear it anymore. In fact, says Stassen, the Baptists have become the new KGB, the secret police of the 21st Century. Donâ€™t call them, theyâ€™ll call you. Reagan and Gorbachev were two people Stassen could work with, but the Southern Baptists today? They are impossible.
* * *
The gift shop at the Cathedral of Hope is open late Friday night, selling lots of books by Stassen that he signs at a high, round table. I also need some anniversary gifts in my bag when I arrive home tomorrow, so I grab lots of heart-shaped things. How handy this is for me. Books and hearts. Next stop is the Kinkos on Oak Lawn to make flyers for tomorrow, and a late-night snack at Luckyâ€™s CafÃ©. Between Kinkoâ€™s and Luckyâ€™s I make a wrong turn and wind up on smooth streets lined with mansions. On your next trip to Dallas I would recommend this haphazard tour: Cathedral of Hope, gift shop, and Luckyâ€™s CafÃ© for your spiritual, consumer, and nutritional needs. And why not check out the mansions? They give you something to think about, too.
Saturday morning theyâ€™re playing gospel music at listener supported KNON 89.3 FM. Iâ€™m looking head on at a bright yellow city bus headed for the Martin Luther King Jr. Center as I listen to a song that assures me this is only a test. Based on a message that I find today at Gospelflava.com, I take it that this is the song by Bishop Larry Trotter and the Sweet Holy Spirit Combined Choirs of Chicago from their album Whatâ€™s to Come is Better than Whatâ€™s Been. All the great American music comes out of here, you know. Never would have been a blues had there not been a gospel first. And had there never been a blues, well, forget it.
Iâ€™m pondering the meaning of this gospel test as I travel East along Inwood, where a towering medical center on the north side of the street looks down upon a tiny liquor store on the south side. Thinking about this is enough to keep me distracted until I sit down at a hamburger stand for my biscuit-sandwich breakfast. When a slinky young woman in pink hair and t-shirt steps in front of the drink counter to pose like a goddess, I try not to choke. The guy with her is dressed for business with sharp tied tie, and the two of them keep me busy concentrating on the biscuit. Today is my 28th anniversary for Christâ€™s sake. I bought hearts last night. There is a better way, I persuade myself. Just eat the biscuit.
I have one more errand to run along Inwood. The clerk is keeping me busy with small chat until he asks me what brings me to town. Itâ€™s a conference I say, at the Cathedral of Hope. He freezes. You know that church right there, and I point over his shoulder. His eyes narrow and he nods his head a terse two degrees. And to me, he never says another word. Running a little late by now, I shake hands very briefly at the registration table and already hear Washington DC activist Damu Smith speaking in mid-lecture, trying to wake everybody up.
* * *
â€œIâ€™m proud to be an activist for Christ!â€ says Smith, speaking not from the pulpit, but from the floor at the head of the center aisle. Dressed in full-length purple dashiki, heâ€™s chipping away at this Saturday morning audience of white peace activists, determined to find a thing of beauty in here before heâ€™s done.
â€œThe four Gospels read like an action movie,â€ chimes Smith. â€œYou see, Jesus is not just feeding people on an individual level, but heâ€™s feeding the multitudes. Heâ€™s transforming public policy!â€ His rendition of the text draws some laughs. â€œI mean, soup kitchens are a nice thing to do, but what we want is the kind of church that canâ€™t wait until the day comes that soup kitchens are not needed! The kind of world that pays people livable wages so they donâ€™t have to work two, three, or four jobs the way some people are working now!â€
The audience is waking up. People running this country today are people who do not believe in worker justice, but thatâ€™s anti-Christ, says Smith. Thatâ€™s got nothing to do with Jesus. And this means that peace from a Jesus perspective is not only the absence of war, but the presence of justice. So if we want to talk about true peace, we have to talk about affordable housing. In D.C. for example new homes are going on the market for $350,000, so let me ask you whatâ€™s that for?
â€œNot for the poor!â€ answers a voice from the audience.
â€œNot for the poor?â€ exclaims Smith. â€œThatâ€™s not even for the working people. Forget the poor, thatâ€™s not even for the middle class!â€ Smith describes a modest apartment that goes to rent for $1,700 per month. â€œSo people are living in cars, hotels, streets, and what do they do when they have to live like this? When they are forced to live in these compressed circumstances and stressed communities? What do they do? Well, not everyone is reaching out to the Lord.â€
â€œSo Black Voices for Peace is yes talking about peace between Israel and Palestine, and yes talking about peace in Iraq, and yes talking about peace in Haiti and the Congo, yes, yes, yes, yes, and yes. But yes weâ€™re also talking about bringing peace to the ghettoes and slums at home, to build a World House like a tent over which we can construct the beloved community.â€ Smith has sailed, of course, into pure King, so he talks about the need to read the whole King, the whole Testament of Hope, the inward journey, the outward journey, the triple evils of racism, poverty, and war, so that we understand what it means to have a true revolution of values, and a true movement for peace.
â€œYOUR friend George Bush,â€ Smith taunts the audience. These are Texas white folks, are they not? So if George Bush has friends, these must be them, right? But Smith does not hold this audience to that hot plate. Has George Bush ever BEEN to the Cathedral of Hope to be fed? Smith laughs. To be fed with the word? The audience grins back. But thereâ€™s one thing George Bush has that the peace movement needs right now. George Bush has an agenda. Not like the peace movement, where we go into one room to talk about peace, another room to talk about affordable housing, another for welfare reform, and never the twain shall meet! What we need is a World House agenda and this means demilitarize, but it also means putting money into affordable housing, jobs, and the concept of justice.
Smith also references the statement by Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice that weâ€™re not going to war against Iran, not just yet. Weâ€™re living in dangerous times, one of the most dangerous periods in the history of the earth, and people in charge are going around with beliefs that are going to keep us in eternal danger. With conflict all around them, they use language that provokes.
In his State of the Union Address, Bush talks about Syria and Iran as evil, but what do people see? Smith asks. They see Palestinian children being blown apart and nothing happening to Israel. No matter how many Palestinian homes get bulldozed or children shot, our nation can never find its way to criticize these things, and thatâ€™s unfair. Weâ€™re not asking for Bush to declare solidarity with the Palestinian struggle, because that will never happen in a million years, but Mr. Bush, pleads Smith, can you be fair? If weâ€™re going to build the beloved community, at least we can tell the truth about whatâ€™s happening. Smith is chipping away. Time for the King chisel again.
A revolution of values is needed in this nation whose leaders continue to use threatening and belligerent language that puts the whole world on edge. A revolution of values is needed in a nation that is materially the most prosperous but spiritually the most impoverished. How can we be moral leaders of the world supporting South Africa all those years while boycotting Cuba? How can we offer moral leadership to the world when we send landmines to Afghanistan and Angola with labels that say made in the USA, blowing up children and causing the highest rates of amputation in the world? What kind of moral leadership is that?
People of faith have got to be passionate about speaking for truth. Fifty eight percent of white folks voted for Bush and 89 percent of Black folks voted against him. And itâ€™s not genetic! Smith draws a burst of laughter for this. No itâ€™s not genetic, itâ€™s experiential. My ancestors came on slave ships, packed like sardines, thrown overboard when they got too sick, just tossed into the ocean, captured into slavery and brutalized by the police. When you have that kind of experience, you tend to think a little differently about things. When you think about four little girls being blown up in Birmingham, when you canâ€™t walk anywhere without being stared at, when you watch movies from balconies, drink from separate fountains, carry your food in an ice box while youâ€™re traveling. This is Smithâ€™s letter from Birmingham jail. In a life of economic and racial privilege, white folks (not everyone who is white has privilege I know that but they do) tend to accept things a little more.
Next time Smith comes to Dallas he wants to see Black, white, Latino, Asian, young and old in THE SAME ROOM! Bringing folks together means getting out more. And a life in Christ, it is NOT hanging out with people who think like you. Jesus went to dinner with the tax collector, and people asked him why. He said do you call the doctor to see people who are well? Two days before the November election, Black Voices for Peace spent the day outside the White House talking to tourists. Smith looks up at the glorious high ceiling of the Cathedral of Hope sanctuary, and pleads, you have to get out of this beautiful place!
George Bush is in the White House because 60 percent of the white people put him there. And although we can say that homophobia and abortion played a part, the election was mostly a widespread referendum on Bush policies. Although Smith has been quoting King all morning, I begin to hear subtext from Malcolm X, the famous instruction he gave an eager college student: go back to your neighborhood and work on white folks. White peace activists have neither mobilized a majority of white folks nor turned out a minority of others for their compartmentalized movement. Smith has been about as diplomatic as he can be, and he promises to come back to help. But there is such a gap.
* * *
During lunch break Peace Mennonite Pastor Dick Davis is introducing me to a swirl of Dallas activists, and I hand out some flyers that I made last night at Kinkos. The Veterans for Peace table is staffed by someone who flew down from Minnesota, and when I sit down to eat, I meet Moravians from Pennsylvania. Moravians, they explain to me, belong to a pre-Reformation peace church, founded upon the ashes of martyr John Huss who died singing in 1415.
â€œSo what are you doing here,â€ they ask me, glancing at my flyers from the War Resisters League. â€œIsnâ€™t the War Resisters League secular?â€ I almost say socialist, too, but decide to swallow the provocation with my lunch. Iâ€™m a sympathetic secularist I explain. I take a William James approach to religious experience. We all have some kind of faith, I think. The fourth person at our table is a beaming activist from Dallas, and lunch passes very quickly.
* * *
For the afternoon breakout session, I will look for Professor Jeff Dumas, leading expert on the problem of military conversion. In fact, I recruited Professor Dumas into this gig so that I could sit here and take notes. We are assigned to a room in the childrenâ€™s wing. Everyone who enters says something about the bright colors. Dumas needs no flair to keep his listeners engaged for the next hour. No notes, no slides, no handouts. He barely moves his hands or his voice. He just has this mind that turns out quiet but thoughtful words.
Dumas picked up his scholarly interest in military conversion from the founder of the field, the late Seymour Melman of Columbia U (see aftercapitalism.com). And some kind of fate has planted Dumas here. If the Dallas-Fort Worth metroplex were a state, it would rank in third or fourth place in its ability to attract military contracts.
Dating back to researches begun during the Vietnam era, Dumas finds two main reasons why people support military spending. They think it makes them safe, and they think itâ€™s good for the economy. But military spending is making the world much more dangerous, says Dumas, and military spending is only good for certain vested interests. In searching for alternatives to military spending we are seeking to remove obstacles to peace. But we also have to address public anxieties about the damage they fear after the flow of military dollars has been cut off.
People see the bases, the workplaces, and the paychecks that come with military spending, says Dumas, but they donâ€™t see how military spending causes the industrial base of an economy to shrink or how this shrinkage in turn contributes to huge trade deficits. Military spending is turning our economy into a second rate economy and the administration is making the world more dangerous. When people fear the conversion of a military economy, itâ€™s because they can see what they will be losing: â€œThe abstraction of after is harder to see.â€
The Pentagonâ€™s own data on base closings demonstrate that when military spending is converted to a civilian economy, more jobs are created. We hear planes right now landing at nearby Love Field, a one-time military base that has a long and prosperous history as a center of growth for civilian enterprise. Likewise with the old Bergstrom Air Force Base at Austin, now home of the Barbara Jordan terminal. Says Dumas: â€œWe donâ€™t even know the examples that we are sitting on top of.â€
At the end of World War II, one third of the national economy of the USA was militarized, and it was successfully reconverted into a booming civilian economy. A lot of planning went into that effort, not by pacifists, but by corporate leaders who wanted economic growth. Today, says Dumas, the challenge is both easier and harder. Itâ€™s easier because there are fewer industries to convert, but harder because the vested interests that most need converting are not â€œgoing backâ€ to their civilian activities. Since the Korean War, the USA has developed a permanent war economy. Converting this economy presents both psychological problems and concrete issues.
The world of military research and production is totally different from the civilian kind. Military engineers design primarily for maximum performance in specialty areas. Military engineers donâ€™t focus on cost. In the military, if a project is funded, the costs will be covered. In civilian life, of course, cost is very important. Also, military engineers are often asked not to think about their place in the larger plans. They just work on their compartmentalized projects.
The story of two refrigerators: Dumas goes shopping and finds two refrigerators priced $150 apart. Whatâ€™s the difference? he asks the salesman. Why this refrigerator here is made from space age plastic strong enough to re-enter the atmosphere! In other words, itâ€™s a military refrigerator.
Is military work inherently more interesting? Thatâ€™s an argument Dumas hears from time to time. So he tells the story of the English aerospace engineer who met a child with spina bifida and built a little vehicle for him to play in. That project, says the aerospace engineer, was the most satisfying and interesting challenge of his life. But what about the size of civilian paychecks? Well yes, answers Dumas, military contractors who turn civilian do have to give up about ten to twenty percent of their income.
One more story: in 1996, Dumas was hired by the famous nuclear lab at Los Alamos to prepare for conversion to civilian life, and they found a civilian problem to work on. The plastics engineers at Los Alamos would work on methods of plastic production that would eliminate toxic waste. Green plastic? Go figure. As soon as the project was announced, guess what happened? Congress cut the funding.
Meanwhile, Congress continues to fund weapons programs that the Pentagon itself has been trying to cut. Even the most conservative constituencies can be reached with these facts, says Dumas. Congress cuts productive research programs on the one hand as it funds useless weapons elsewhere. Dumas has developed quite a bit of expertise here in Texas talking to conservative audiences about military conversion. There is no need to assume, he says, that the work canâ€™t be done: â€œI know you can do this,â€ he says. â€œI know this can be done.â€
In conversation between elders at the table, several of them Mennonites, a consensus emerges that the European Union is the economic force to watch these days, where a much more intelligent mix of social and military policies is going to prove that the USA, in the grip of its own paranoid fantasies of evil, is choosing a second-rate path. Because winning a war against terrorism, says Dumas, has nothing to do with the size of the military. In the near term, terrorism is best fought through superb intelligence and diligent police work. In the long term (like Stassen said last night) the most effective policies against terrorism involve resolute commitments to human rights and development.
Conversation continues at the table, way past time. Dumas is conducting a masterful seminar and people are reluctant to go. So it is no reflection on the fine presentation by Karen Horst Cobb that I arrive back in the sanctuary late and tired. I hear what she is saying about love, the centrality of love, the way we have not paid enough attention to it. There is a deeper conversion at stake, a revolution of values, a profound choosing. I stare into a candle that I hold and listen to the prayers that people have shared for millennia on various continents and times.
Thanks to the Order of St. Francis and St. Clare, I pick up a smooth stone on my way out the door. Using stones like this, Cobb has encouraged all of us to build a Cairn, an Ebenezer, a little arrangement of stones that would signify a pathmarker through rough country. If we build these little pathmarkers, they will show our hope that a path to peace can be found. What else would Jesus do?