Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Another World is Possible

The Peace Surge in Washington

“I have talked to those in power, of both parties. I tell them there is another way to achieve global security. Not through hatred and war, but through love and compassion.”

“Do you know what they say?”

“Be realistic, Michael.”

“Do you know what I say?”

“Screw realism!”

Although Rabbi Michael Lerner’s words lacked the eloquence of the UCC Justice and Peace slogan (“Imagine – Another world is possible”), they hushed the hundreds in the Lutheran Church of the Reformation and left us gaping at their simplicity and sincerity. After a Buddhist meditation from Bhante Suhita Dharma and the rousing processional Siyahamba (“We are marching in the light of God”), Rabbi Lerner’s sermon lifted us beyond that day and challenged us to transform the world. After all, do we not believe in a God of transformation, that through God anything is possible?

On the heels of that epiphany, we were to turn to someone we did not know and answer the following:

“What experience or image or text has made you believe that a world of love and generosity is possible?”

Yes, I cheated and looked ahead in the leaflet, breaking that unwritten rule of worship. Even so, I could not find an answer. All that came to mind were visions of hatred: ecstatic Janjaweed pursuing Darfurian women and children as they attempted to draw water, the smoldering remains of a once-bustling Baghdad market after an IED explosion, the nude bodies of tortured detainees piled like trash in Abu Ghraib, and the wild eyes of a kidnapped contractor as harsh, indiscernible voices barked commands. When the moment came, I could do nothing, but turn to my left and exclaim there has to be a better way to treat each other.

* * *

On the same weekend that Democratic Presidential Candidate Hillary Clinton spoke at a Des Moines high school with no mention of the Iraq War and Republican Senator from Virginia John Warner admitted guilt for allowing a troop surge in Vietnam, over half a million protestors rallied on the Washington Mall. As the Capital Police corralled us to the sidewalks and helicopters circled overhead, we were shouting, “This is what democracy looks like!” Considering the diversity of people assembled, this chant was especially apt.

There were gray-haired bongo drummers haunted by Vietnam ghosts and street entrepreneurs selling “Washington Peace March” shirts (where the date seemed conspicuously scrawled as if by magic marker). There were college students affiliated with the College Democrats, Democratic Society and Communist Youth Movement alongside US Army veterans, some having served in Iraq and at least one in active duty. There were Buddhists, Muslims, Jews, Catholics, Methodists, Mormons, Quakers, Presbyterians and of course Congregationalists. There were women from Code Pink screaming “Pull out!” and worker union chapters passing out “Impeach Bush” cards. There were teachers and children with signs reading “Less war; more education” and an angry Red Hat Society, some wheel-bound while others used canes. There were people carrying hastily scrawled messages on simple cardboard signs and one group with an elaborate white fabric structure in the shape of spine that read “Congress, get a backbone!” There were peace insignias and “Department of Peace” posters as well as signs that read “New Orleans, our Baghdad.” There were rally speakers of all kinds, from famous actors to legislators, from religious leaders to grass-root organizers.

I waited for over an hour to move five feet as we surged in both directions toward the capital. It took another half an hour before I could discern where the street was, feeling lost in the hundreds of thousands of bodies. It was at that moment that I realized the root of the despair and loneliness that brought me here. When I was alone, I felt insignificant. But when united with others, we seemed able to overcome anything. We were members in the Body of Christ that day. We were Church.

As if to punctuate the realization, I joined my voice as a large group belted out “This little light of mine.”

For more information on the Georgia Peace Movement in Atlanta, visit

For more information on UCC Social Justice, visit


Post a Comment

<< Home