SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS: THE FIRST VETERAN FOR PEACE

El_Greco_-_San_Martín_y_el_mendigoFROM “SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS: THE FIRST VETERAN FOR PEACE” BY PAUL DORDAL AND JOHN DAVID KUDRICK IN THE NEW PEOPLE (NOV. 2019)

The Veterans For Peace organization was founded in 1985 to draw on veterans’ “personal experience and perspectives gained as veterans to raise public awareness of the true costs of militarism and war—and to seek peaceful, effective alternatives.” As we pause to reflect this coming Armistice Day, November 11, it is important to remember this unique call for peace from those who have experienced war’s utter senselessness firsthand. Dwight Eisenhower, a WWII general and U.S. president, profoundly declared, “I hate war as only a soldier who has lived it can, only as one who has seen its brutality, its futility, its stupidity.” Many so-called war heroes have become the greatest proponents of peace after (and sometimes during) their enlistment.

Yet the question remains why so many millions, even billions, cannot see war’s futility and stupidity, and thus resist the evil powers and principalities who constantly call for the use of violence and war to solve conflicts. Currently, the United States is fighting its own global war, with tens of thousands of troops stationed in over 170 countries. Any reasonable person, though, can see that this continuous warfare has not resulted in true, lasting peace anyplace it is being fought. In a recent speech at the United Nations, President Trump noted that the U.S. “is a compassionate nation” who “will forever be a great friend to the world.” These words could not have rung more hollow to those who actually listened.

For many veterans and others, a time comes when the soul, mind, and body become one and there is a change in attitudes, beliefs, and actions toward war and violence. For some veterans, the experience of participating in or preparing for war becomes the “Aha!” moment that helps them realize just how wrong and futile war can be—even the most supposedly “just war.”

As I (Paul) was reflecting on my own “Aha!” moment and the decision I made after returning from the Iraq War that I could not as a Christian be involved with war anymore, I read about another veteran who could not participate in the military or engage in violence after his own epiphany. St. Martin of Tours converted to Christ in the fourth century. Soon afterward, while on patrol, Martin saw a shivering beggar alongside the road. Dressed in his military regalia, Martin tore his cape in two, gave half to the beggar, and declared, “I am the soldier of Christ: it is not lawful for me to fight.” Upon hearing of Martin’s conscientious objection, his military superiors charged him with cowardice and imprisoned him. Yet he remained convinced, as so many others have since, that to be a Christian precludes one from serving in any military—that Christians are peacemakers, not violence seekers. St. Martin of Tours could well be known as the first veteran for peace; if not the first, then at least one of the most remarkable.

Pondering the story of St. Martin, I (John David) am struck at how he took compassionate action as a great friend toward the beggar by choosing not to fall into the typical “us and them” thinking that dehumanizes people—denying and/or ignoring the inherent mystery, beauty, and wonder of every person in the global tribe of humanity. For it is such “us and them” thinking that allows intentional, accepted, and applauded violence and war against humanity in the name of “keeping the peace,” although it never leads to real peace among us.

As recognized by almost every Christian group in the world, the Feast of St. Martin of Tours is held, ironically, on November 11. For Christians and all peace seekers, then, Armistice Day should be a clarion call not necessarily to celebrate the sacrifices of veterans, but to recognize the sacrifice of true peacemakers like Christ to end all wars and violence—and especially to celebrate them by becoming peacemakers ourselves.

Veterans For Peace has a catchy motto that some members regularly use: “If you are not a veteran for peace, then what are you a veteran for?” Upon reflecting on the words and deeds of St. Martin of Tours (and, of course, the eternal words of Jesus), should not Christians and, really, all people also say and believe: “If you are not a person for peace, then what are you for?”

Paul Dordal and John David Kudrick are the co-founders of the newly formed group, Christian Alliance For Peace (facebook.com/ChristianAllianceForPeace).

You can read the New People version here: St Martin of Tours: First Veteran For Peace

Unwinnable

ddequoteYesterday, as the US president visited Pennsylvania and thousands waved their flags, chanting USA, USA, the sickening reality of endless US militarism and imperialism continues to go unchecked by just about everyone in this country.

I served honorably in the US military as a chaplain for seven years and was in combat for a year in Iraq. Nevertheless, I simply cannot understand why so many US citizens are so supportive of war and not appalled by this country’s increasing militarism and imperialism. US wars have not solved anything or brought about peace. US militarism and imperialism have not made us safer, and certainly, have not made the rest of the world safer.

It also perplexes me that US citizens believe president after president who say that the US military is the “best” in the world. If we would take our heads out of the sand for just one moment, we would see that the US military has failed miserably over the last 50 years at accomplishing sustainable peace in the world.

Why? Because the US government and its military-industrial-complex are not in the business of winning wars or peacemaking, but of maintaining continual wars to steal or control resources, subjugate other nations, and line the pockets of the plutocrats (the 1%) who actually run this country.

The US has invaded or bombed seven different countries since September 11, 2001 and has hundreds of military bases all over the world, with little to nothing to show for any of it. Yet, the call of the current US regime is for even more money to be spent on the military and war.

Below is a list of six of those seven countries, all Muslim majority nations, that the US military is currently bombing or fighting in, with the (estimated) percentage of the land/population that each of these country’s government has control of:[i]

  1. Libya: 90% controlled by terrorists and militias
  2. Syria: 65% controlled by terrorists and militias
  3. Somalia: 50% controlled by terrorists and militias
  4. Afghanistan: 40% controlled by Taliban, terrorists, or militias
  5. Yemen: 30% controlled by terrorists and militias
  6. Iraq: 20% controlled by terrorists

How is it possible that all of these countries are so unstable when we have spent two trillion dollars ($2,000,000,000,000) fighting the so-called war on terror? This is not to mention the millions killed, wounded, or forced to flee from these countries because of war. And what do we US citizens have to show for all our warmongering since 2001: Tens of thousands of U.S. servicemen and women dead or wounded, an astounding twenty trillion dollars in debt, and not more stability or safety, but more chaos, more terrorism, and less safety.  Yet, amazingly, many US citizens keep waving their flags and saying let’s bomb and invade some more.

Bombings and war will not bring peace! They just bring more bombing and war.

It’s time to wake up and wage peace! War does not work! War is not winnable!

Peace is possible.

© Paul Dordal, 2017

[i] Source: Al Jazeera

 

There Is No “War” On _______ [Fill In The Blank With Your Polarized Political Opinion]

War On EverythingI am neither offended nor outraged, but I am saddened by bourgeois liberals who are offended by a non-existent, so-called “war” on science or deluded conservatives who are outraged by a so-called “war” on Christmas, etcetera.

I have been to war, and war is hell. I would hope that we could try not to diminish the reality of the horror of war or the victims of violence in war by using the word “war” to describe someone’s opposition to someone else’s political or religious point of view.

But I am sure that some liberal will be offended or some conservative will be outraged by my suggestion.

© Paul Dordal, 2017

The Two Things We Should Always Talk About (Reflection)

religion-and-politicsI saw a nurse talking heatedly with two patients down the hallway at the hospital where I serve as a chaplain. Suddenly, she saw me in my collar and made a beeline towards me. We had sat once before and talked about her life and her challenges. She told me I wasn’t like the priests when she was growing up—I was easy to talk to. She used to be a semi-driver, sort of a rough and tumble lady, but also very sweet. Now she was walking towards me scowling. As she approached she smiled and playfully punched in me the arm like we were old pals.

She asked me briskly, “Two things you’re never supposed to talk about, right?” It took me a second to guess what she was talking about. “Oh, yeah,” I said, “religion and politics.” “Yeah,” she said, “Some people just don’t get it!” As she walked away, I replied, “But, maybe those are the two things that we should always talk about.”

Sometimes hyperbole is the only way to get through to people. Though we should never say never and always avoid always, they may sometimes be necessary.

I saw an excellent movie on Wednesday called “Away From Her,” which was about a couple dealing with the onset and progression of Alzheimer’s disease. Several times in the movie, the lament from the woman with Alzheimer’s was her regret over the superficiality of so much of her life and interactions with others. When the end is in view, when death or loss of self is approaching, many begin to reflect on the meaning of their lives.

Though we are created by God to enjoy creation and the lives we have been given, we are also uniquely created for Religion and Politics–the really important work of being alive.

Religion might be defined simply as the process and practice of our relationship to Divine Mystery, to the ever-present spiritual reality that gives our lives deeper meaning.  Politics, from the Greek word politikos, which means of, for, or relating to citizens, is the process of making decisions applying to all members of a given group.  Politics is the process and practice of how we relate to each other as a society. Without relationships, life would not be worth living—we would cease to be.

So, what two more important things in life can there be but how we relate to God and how we relate to each other. Religion and politics are what make life meaningful, and if we try to pass through life superficially, trying just to be happy, eventually we will realize just how meaningless our lives have been. And then it will be too late.

© Paul Dordal, 2016

10/07/01 – A Date Which Will Live In Infamy

soldiers-in-afghanistan“We will not tire; we will not falter; and we will not fail.” – President Bush, 2001.

The war in Afghanistan started on this day fifteen years ago. Former president George W. Bush spoke the above words just days before the invasion, and it is abundantly clear that the U.S. has not grown tired of war. It has been waging this war for over 15 years now (despite what Wikipedia says). And though the U.S. has not tired of war, the U.S. has indeed faltered and often failed in this so-called global war on terror.

But becoming tired of war is not the real problem.

Too many of us are sick of war and sick from war. “War is always an evil,” Jimmy Carter, another former president, said recently. And evil is what makes humans sick—sick in our minds and sick in our souls. U.S. combat veterans are not just coming back with physical wounds from fighting, but sick in their constitutions—negatively changed forever in their minds and souls. I should know. I am one.

But it is our whole society that is now sick from war after so many years of senseless and unnecessary national violence.  This U.S.  government’s disposition towards violence has spread to the streets of our communities, with our police increasingly using military tactics and equipment to quell any hint of opposition to the U.S. corporate and government domination systems.  We should not be surprised. The U.S. has been in some sort of war conflict for 222 of its 239 years of existence.

It is obvious that the U.S. is not tired of war; but, its citizens are desperately sick from war.

“This counter-terrorism campaign will be waged through a steady, relentless effort to take out ISIL wherever they exist …” – President Obama, 2014

Today, President Obama has continued U.S. military warfare in Syria, Libya, Iraq, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Somalia, Yemen, and God only knows where else. All this without any Congressional declaration of war against any of these countries. When the U.S. military recently attacked militants in Libya, where were the news headlines: “U.S. Now At War With Libya!” I might understand no outrage, but not even a mention to that effect in the mainstream media?

Imagine if one of Africa’s national leaders said, “We will wage a steady, relentless effort to take out violent racists wherever they exist,” and then began dropping bombs on suspected violent racist’s homes in ten different Western nations. There would be outrage; there would be calls for a war crimes tribunal. Is this a fallacy of false equivalence?  Only if you think that the U.S. is morally exceptional, which, of course, it is not. The U.S. is a nation, which is simply an abstraction, like any other nation. What is real, what is concrete and observable is a nation’s actions.

It is time to call what the U.S. government is doing overseas what it is: gravely immoral and evil. Our militarism is evil and it is making the U.S.’s citizenry and communities sick, both spiritually, materially, and emotionally. Worse yet, U.S. imperialism is not just killing militants but also many tens of thousands of innocent civilians, making the societies of other nations desperately sick as well.

It is time to end all U.S. military interventions overseas, stop all U.S. arms sales to other nations, close Guantanamo, and decrease the size of the U.S. military budget by half.

The only way to heal from this war sickness is to end the wars!

(c) Paul Dordal, 2016

The Gospel of Nonviolence (Prophetic Reflection)

nonviolence

What if the Church, since its founding, had obeyed Jesus’ Gospel of Nonviolence instead of rationalizing the need for so-called just wars? Simply, we would be, today, a world at peace. If the Church of Jesus Christ had consistently preached and practiced peacemaking as Jesus commanded, wars, as we have known them, would have disappeared.

Wars and violence aren’t the world’s fault.  They’re the Church’s fault.

But hope is not lost. If Christians of the world would repent, get rid of their guns, stop supporting war, and, love, instead of fear, their neighbor as Jesus taught, the world can still be transformed.

God’s Kingdom will come on earth as it is in heaven.

© Paul Dordal, 2016

Christians Against Empires (Reflection)

B751_ItsAPlanetNotAnEmpireCan you imagine the enslaved ancient Hebrews voluntarily supporting the Egyptian Empire’s desire to conquer large amounts of territory circa 1400 BCE? Of course not. Can you imagine first century Christians being supportive of the Roman Empire in its quest for hegemony? I think not. Then how is that so many twenty-first century American Christians still support the U.S. Empire in its continuing imperialistic activities throughout the world?  Empire is empire and Jesus was opposed to them. So should all Christians.

Christian Nationalism: A Sinful Oxymoron (Reflection)

nationalismNationalism is and always has been a danger to humanity. When politicians talk about American exceptionalism, they are promoting an extreme form of nationalism. Stoking nationalism is most often the way citizens are mobilized to support and make war against other humans; it is the basis of imperialism, xenophobia, racism, ethnic discrimination, and sows the seeds of fascism. The Church and Christians should have no part in it. Yet, everywhere I look I see nationalism in our churches.

This past June I took part in a pastoral care conference at one of the mega churches in the area. A wonderfully radical evangelical minister was the keynote speaker and there were some exciting redemptive discussions on racial reconciliation. Undiscussed or mentioned by anyone at the conference were the two U.S. Army recruiters, in their dress blue uniforms, at a table in the narthex. What were they doing there? They were invited to convince ministers to help them recruit young people for war. I have never come closer in my life to flipping tables in a church.

In some of my sister Roman Catholic Churches, I have recently seen some promoting groups to pray the so-called Patriotic Rosary.[i] When I mentioned this to a priest friend, he became defensive saying that the Bible supports patriotism. That is debatable, but Jesus and the Bible clearly do not support nationalism. The Patriotic Rosary includes singing The Battle Hymn of the Republic and the Star Spangled Banner, which are clearly militaristic and nationalistic songs.

Connected to my own religious tradition is the Holy Apostolic Catholic Assyrian Church of the East. I recently read that the Secretary of the Holy Synod of the Church of the East wants to develop a formal relationship with the nation of Israel. He wants to forge this relationship, not based on justice or peacemaking, but because of the military strength the Israeli nation has in the Middle East.[ii] Additionally, in the article he calls for yet another nation to be created for the benefit of the Assyrian people. Though this sounds like a good thing to many, creating new nations, borders, and armies cannot bring long-term peace; it is not the peacemaking Jesus has called us to!

The Church which Jesus Christ founded, the Church that was born on the day when Babel-like nationalistic walls were symbolically torn down, is not to be involved in nationalism.  Furthermore, the local church is not to be a flag-bearing microcosm of their nation, but agape bands of love agents, bringing about the nonviolent and egalitarian Kingdom of Heaven to earth.  Christians are, first and foremost, “citizens” born of heaven and come to earth.  Our savior said we cannot serve two masters; either we are citizens of heaven or we become denizens of hell.

For the Church to speak prophetically for peace on earth it has to renounce and remove any hint of nationalism from within its walls and from its speech.  Christian nationalism is a gravely sinful oxymoron.

© Paul Dordal, 2016

[i] http://www.sacredheartmilledgeville.org/Freedom%20Rosary%20and%20Litany.pdf
[ii] http://www.algemeiner.com/2016/06/21/assyrian-bishop-wants-friendship-with-israel/

The Apology That Leads to True Freedom (Reflection)

freedom-allSaint Justin, in his First Apology, warned of the demonic forces which attempt to enslave the world. The follower of Jesus, however, Justin Martyr says, is empowered to be free from the demons of sexism, capitalism, racism, nationalism, and imperialism (First Apology, 14). Justin’s list of systems of oppression put a social justice frame around the apostolic, but often obscure, teachings of Saint Paul who said, “We fight these demons, these powers and principalities, not with the military weapons of the world, but with the nonviolent, but powerful and living Word of God” (2 Corinthians 10:4-5).

The liberating teachings of Christ and his prophets and their repudiation of the demonic systems of domination and oppression today need to be preached again, primarily to the Church and then to the world. Unfortunately, the tremendous good which the Church does is often overshadowed by its succumbing to evil and being complicit with the injustices of abuse of power, seeking prestige, and the acquiring of vast amounts of wealth and property. These injustices require a constant critique of the Church. Thankfully, the Church is Holy and cannot be fully overtaken by Satan and the demons (Matthew 16:18). Nevertheless, it can surely benefit from a critique from within and hopefully grow in holiness.

There are three, but not just three, primary ways in which the Church has regularly become complicit with the demons and principalities.  It has often desired power, prestige, and property. Through its hierarchy, its pomp, and its acquired wealth, the Church has been infiltrated and  controlled by demonic powers. The first step in exorcising the Church of these worldly influences is to recognize this possession and to name the demons (Mark 5:9).  Thus, naming the world in love, as Paulo Freire espoused, we are able to expose the oppressor and to transform ourselves and them as well.

Upon naming these demons of abuse of power, of prestige, and of property, the Church is now able to be dispossessed of these possessions.  Go and sell all, Jesus says to the Church, and give to the poor, and then come follow me (Luke 12:33; 18:22). The Church by supporting and participating in hierarchical and patriarchal systems, by seeking societal standing and reputation, and by the purchasing and ownership of lavish properties has been knowingly and unknowingly used throughout history by Satan to contribute to the oppression of God’s good earth and her very good people.

What now shall the Church do? Apologize? St. Paul says there is a false sorrow that leads to spiritual death, but only a godly sorrow marked by repentance which leads to salvation (2 Corinthians 7:10).

No, it is time for the Church to repent, to change, to be set free by dispossessing itself of its institutional power, prestige, and property.  And then to present to the world, as Saint Lawrence did, the only true treasure of the Church: its agape people.

© Paul Dordal, 2016

DDE: There Must Be Another Way (Quote)

DDE On War“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies, in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. The cost of one modern heavy bomber is this: a modern brick school in more than 30 cities. It is two electric power plants, each serving a town of 60,000. It is two fine, fully equipped hospitals. It is some fifty miles of concrete pavement. We pay for a single fighter plane with a half million bushels of wheat. We pay for a single destroyer with new homes that could have housed more than 8,000 people. This is not a way of life at all, in any true sense. Under the cloud of threatening war, it is humanity hanging from a cross of iron…. Is there no other way the world may live?”