Shortly before he was killed, Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. turned to Andrew Young and said, “I no longer believe the Good Samaritan story. I’m tired of trying to pick up those who are beaten down. I want to change the Jericho Road. I want it to be a safe place where no one gets beat up, robbed, and left for dead.”
On the Road to Peace
A few weeks ago, I came across the latest issue of the alumni magazine of Loyola University in Baltimore, Maryland. On the cover we see the back of a young ROTC student cadet wearing her military fatigues, and the title, “‘Til the Battle’s Over.” The lead article features some of the many young Catholics that this Jesuit school trains for war. This issue of the magazine is a disgrace. But so is the presence of the U.S. military at any so-called Christian institution.
Ten years ago, I was having breakfast with my parents in a Central Park hotel when news came of the terrorist attacks at the World Trade Center. My folks left town, and I walked downtown to see how I could help. I remember the clear blue sky and the million people walking uptown toward me. The subways, bridges, tunnels and roads had all been closed.
When I reached St. Vincent's Hospital, I found hundreds of doctors, nurses and stretchers standing silently along 12th Street, waiting for the wounded to arrive. I offered my services as a chaplain, and they invited me to wait with them. After several hours, we finally realized: no one was coming.
Nothing is harder than working for peace in a time of war. This month, as we remember the 66th anniversaries of the U.S. atomic bombings of Hiroshima on Aug. 6 and Nagasaki on Aug. 9, I take heart in the thousands of people who stand in peace vigils, speak out against war and go to prison for peace -- from Los Alamos to the Pentagon.
I've been traveling across the country these past five months, preaching, leading retreats and giving lectures to all sorts of people about the life and spirituality of peace. Granted, it's an unusual way to spend one's days. I get the impression that most folks find my "peace project" quaint. Of course, I get attacked by the left and the right. On occasion someone tells me I'm wasting my time. Church authorities regularly ban me from their precincts. One Trappist monk told me I've undertaken "a hopeless cause, but a noble one."
In less than two months, the US military and its media machine will tell us to mark the tenth anniversary of the September 11th attacks by celebrating their warmaking efforts --and continuing to live in fear.
One of the most astonishing, creative and powerful acts of nonviolent civil disobedience in recent U.S. history took place on Dec. 17, 2008, in Salt Lake City, Utah.
In its last weeks, the George W. Bush administration put 150,000 acres of pristine Eastern Utah public land up for auction for leasing to the oil and natural gas industry. Not only would the land be sold and destroyed, this deal would worsen catastrophic climate change.
“Daily we should take account and ask: What have I done today to alleviate the anguish, to mitigate the evil, to prevent humiliation?”
So advised Rabbi Abraham Heschel, one of the wisest religious leaders of our time. His writings shine with luminous truth and love. They hold a rare authenticity because he lived his own teachings with an astonishing integrity.
A new collection, Abraham Joshua Heschel: Essential Writings, has brought together some of that wisdom.
Last week's Supreme Court ruling against California's prison system as "cruel and inhuman punishment" was not a surprise -- except in the sense that it was said publicly. Many of us who have experienced our criminal injustice system first hand know well how horrific it is. The court ruled that 35,000 California prisoners would have to be transferred or released because the system is so unjust.
The case sparked new discussion on overcrowded prisons (156,000 prisoners suffer in California prisons built for half that number), but it started years ago because of the atrocious lack of health care in California's prisons. Many prisoners died needlessly over the years, usually because they were not given their medicine.
Turns out, over the past nine years while I’ve lived and worked in New Mexico church authorities have received hundreds of letters of complaint about me and my stand for peace from Catholics who support war and build nuclear weapons, primarily from the Catholics who work at the Los Alamos National Laboratories.