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Issue Date:  October 21, 2005

From the Editor's Desk

Peace and a 'Christian' nation

Peace is at the heart of our sacred texts. Jesus speaks of it constantly and gives us a vision of peace, among individuals and among peoples, that is radically different from anything that went before. It is a peace that anticipates the unearned forgiveness of God, that teaches the forgiveness of enemies and that assumes the inherent worth of every human without qualification.

It is a peace that defies logic.

We don’t hear much about it from our pulpits and even less from our civic leaders, except as the platitudinous denouement to speeches about war.

That’s why I’m happy that we’ve put together our second Paths to Peace special section. The first one was published April 26, 2002.

Share the new Paths to Peace with friends, use it as a discussion starter. I am certain it will provoke difficult questions and stir discussions. One of the realities that emerges in this year’s section is the degree to which we assume that violence is the only response to certain circumstances. Alternatives exist.

While no one expects states to use the Sermon on the Mount as a briefing book in the conduct of foreign affairs, one would be hard pressed to discover the vaunted “Christian” character of the United States through official references to peacemaking.

In fact, there is no single pursuit to which we give more time, energy or resources than the preparation of mass violence and war-making.

The military budget for this year is expected to be around $440 billion dollars, which would translate to about $1.2 billion per day. That doesn’t include the $300 billion already spent on the open-ended wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Our religious leaders -- and here I refer to the whole panoply of Christian moralists who have taken to the public square -- can muster the fervor of the newly converted, arguing against any state concessions for same sex couples or railing against officials they deem insufficiently vigilant on such matters as abortion.

But there is relative silence when it comes to the enormous sums Americans dish out to fund the preparations for war and the wars themselves; or for the extension of the global nuclear threat through development of new generations of bombs; or for the slaughter of untold thousands of civilians by our military hardware.

Military recruiters invade high schools and colleges and turn public schools into military academies. And we hear barely a word.

There are some notable exceptions, it must be said. They include Bishop Thomas Gumbleton, auxiliary of Detroit, retired Bishop Walter Sullivan of Richmond, Va., and Pax Christi USA president Bishop Gabino Zavala. They have all worked hard to raise awareness that the church has a long and distinguished record of advocating for peace and justice as essential components of the Christian message.

Much is made of the need to work for a culture of life. Too often the message has been severely truncated.

~ ~ ~

Some weeks ago, New Orleans native and resident Jason Berry wrote a moving personal reflection on Hurricane Katrina. Since then he has been back to his house in the Carrollton neighborhood, and we’re pleased to report that the floodwaters didn’t enter the house, although they came up to the top step of his front porch. He reported in a phone conversation Oct. 7 that he and his wife, Melanie McKay, lost a car and most of their garage to the water and wind, but otherwise he’s feeling very fortunate. He noted that he lives a block from Notre Dame Seminary and that across the street from the seminary, an entire block of houses burned to the ground.

He expects to be able to return to his home in about a month, when the power is turned on again.

-- Tom Roberts

National Catholic Reporter, October 21, 2005

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