Peacemaking CSAI Narrative

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Building a Peacemaking Culture: Telling Our Story

We must tell stories. Stories that dig into the earth buried in our very bones. Stories which cut through the litanies of bad news; litanies of war, violence, oppression;  litanies of climate change, species extinction, overpopulation;  litanies of greed, consumerism, rampant materialism. 

We know there is bad in the world. It overwhelms us. We cover our heads, we cover our ears, we focus on the good we find close at hand, in our families, in our communities. We feel impotent in the face of so much that we cannot fix, so much we cannot heal or repair.

Stories reach our hearts. They show us our humanity, our connection. Stories weave the thread of our lives into the tapestry of this world. A good story invites, inspires, empowers. It reconnects and reminds; if not us, who? If not today, will tomorrow come?

This is our story. It is a new story of us, a reworking of our relationship one to another. It is a second coming of humankind; ancient in the longings to which it gives voice, yet fresh and newly born, our eyes adjusting to the bright light of love.

"The day will come when, after harnessing space, the winds, the tides, gravitation, we shall harness for God the energies of love. And, on that day, for the second time in the history of the world, man will have discovered fire." Pierre Teilhard de Chardin SJ

We are at a crossroads in human history – on the verge of discovering this new fire. There is a growing awareness that our current ways of being threaten the future of life on this planet. Our increasing proximity has heightened old fears of ‘other,’ increasing a sense of scarcity, pushing us into various fundamentalisms which hold a false promise of security within their strict definitions of ‘us.’

Our human species must develop a new vision of who we are, what our purpose on earth is, in order to survive together on our small planet. The old guides of maximizing consumption and gaining individual success without concern for the broader human community simply will not serve us as any longer. We need a new vision, a new story.

There is a sense, in many circles, of a groundswell event beginning to take place. It has been described as a turning, an awakening - a change of proportions larger than we have yet been able to hope. It is the anticipation of a new way of being in the world; a new way of being in community one with another.

Although it feels like new hope, it is a longing that our hearts have felt for untold millennium. It is the same longing which urged our ancient ancestors to gather together; the longing for safety in community. For a way of being in peace which gives space to breathe, to laugh, to love. Our hearts call for it especially now when we are threatened by war, by violence, by a fragile and endangered ecosystem, by unremitting greed and self-centered industry.

How did we get here? At the dawn of humanity our ancestors were threatened by external events; wild animals, unpredictable elements, starvation. Gathering in small groups they learned they could deal with life’s challenges better together than individually. Cooperating, they gathered more than they needed, built shelter against the weather, united in hunting animals large enough to feed the whole group. Family groups grew to clans, clans to tribes. They planted and harvested, healed one another, passed on gathered wisdom.

But in creating a safe ‘us’ there also had to be a ‘them’ – someone to push against; someone to be ‘other.’

Now that paradigm doesn’t work. The world has gotten smaller. There are too many people on this planet, too many places where it becomes hard to distinguish us from them. Tribal boundaries, whether religious, economic, or geographical, no longer make us safe. The residual suspicion of the unfamiliar – the not like us – creates needless fear and separation. It creates anxiety around the strange, the kind of attitudes that reject other people for no real reason – for speaking with an accent, for having different colored skin, for loving the wrong person.

The whole planet has become one big us; unless we recognize this truth and start acting from it we may destroy the very home which sustains us.

We can look to the visions of ancient peoples, who recognized our interdependence. We can look to the visions of rainforest natives who call on all to cooperate for the survival of the planet. We can look to the vision of the early Christians, who saw a paradise on earth for people who chose to follow the teachings of Jesus and live together in peace. We can create the second coming here and now, a second coming of humanity, a second chance of living fully and respectfully in the present instead of waiting for a distant god to rescue us from ourselves. In the words of 15th century mystic, St. Teresa of Avila:

“Christ has no body now but yours No hands, no feet on earth but yours Yours are the eyes through which He looks compassion on this world Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”

We are the ones we have been waiting for. Unitarian Universalists, creating peace by working for justice, can lead by our example. We lead by the love exemplified in our lives and by the stories we tell. We must tell stories of hope, stories of redemption, stories of the power of love. R.S. Gilbert reminds us that “…social change today requires…the mobilization of individual energies into communal power.”

It is only by doing the work of justice – in all its myriad forms – that peace is possible.

But how do we do that? How do we break through the bank of hopelessness built by never ending data streams of information filled with bad news? How do we reach good hearted, good intentioned people who are overwhelmed by the injustice of their own lives, let alone the injustice in the wider world?

Sharon Welch wrote “People are empowered to work for justice by their love for others and by the love they receive from others.” How do we make that love real, make it a force which propels us into the world and keeps us going when we tire out?

One way is to keep telling the new story of us; to expand it to include all the voices working for a new vision of being in the world. It is to understand that all work for justice is work for peace. From David Korten with his vision of the Great Turning, to Michael Lerner and his Global Marshall plan, from Thich Nhat Hanh’s “peace is every step” to Vaclav Havel’s “self-transcendence as the only real alternative to extinction”, from Van Jones’ holding up the story of Noah – we are all in this together – to Rita Nakashima Brock and Rebecca Parker, who remind us that “love, embodied in heart, soul, mind, and bodily strength, lies at the core of our work for justice…and peace.”

Peacemaking can seem like a cacophony of voices, all wanting attention, all competing for time and energy. We must be peaceful in our peacemaking. We must tell stories which ground us in our spiritual identity and in our connection with one another; stories which find the quiet space needed to move out into the world and make a difference.

Love is our spiritual ground. We must put a face on it and embody it in the stories we tell. Our stories must hold up the power that is found in community, the agency which is strengthened by our recognized communion. We can tell stories of non-violent action at lunch counters in 1960’s south, stories of determination by the mothers of the ‘disappeared’ in South America; stories of triumph over apartheid in South Africa, of freedoms gained by Polish union workers in Gdansk. These are stories of tremendous change, of winning against unthinkable odds. These are stories which touch, which connect, which challenge us to claim our power, to speak our truth, to step out into a world that would have us stay home and be quiet.

Unitarian Universalists have been good at working for change. We must become good at calling others to join us; good at verbalizing our grounding in love; good at inviting more and more into the ‘us’ of peacemaking.

This is our story: Instead of looking to a distant God to gift us a new world – we must be the hands and feet creating that world, the imagineers describing it, the voices calling for it. We are the breath of our ancestors, telling new stories, we are the spirit of life – the only possibility for creating a new world.

Pamela Rumancik MLTS Class 2011