Put Down Your Sword
by John Dear
Each day we hear some new tale of horror and woe--fifty killed in a Baghdad market; thirty students shot dead at a Virginia university; hundreds killed in a hurricane; rising sea levels; U.S. funded Israeli attacks on Palestinians; widespread HIV/AIDS epidemics in Africa; thousands dying each year crossing the Mexican border; massive funding for a new generation of nuclear weapons, yet further cut backs for schools, jobs, healthcare, housing; and so forth. The bad news is so prevalent, so heralded, so celebrated, that it all but blocks out any good news. Indeed, some of us forget that there is such as a thing as good news.
As I study the lives of the saints and peacemakers, I discover that they turned a deaf ear to the bad news, that they listened close to the good news and that they even worked to generate more good news. They lived in hope because they did hopeful things. Most of all, they looked to the example and teachings of Jesus and tried to live accordingly, to apply those teachings to the world. As they did, they became good news for others. Just as Jesus gave people hope, they gave people hope.
Jesus was the greatest practitioner of nonviolence in the history of the world, in my humble opinion. In our times of total violence, global warming, and perpetual war, he offers good news at every level--personally, communally, socially, economically, spiritually and politically. He points to a way out, a way forward, a way toward a new world of peace.
For over twenty five years now, I have experimented with his teachings of Gospel nonviolence, his good news of peace. My work for peace and justice has taken me across the country and around the world. These days, when I’m not on the road, preaching the good news of peace, I live alone on a mesa in the high desert of New Mexico and work with a campaign to disarm Los Alamos, the birthplace of the bomb. My friends and I want to be part of the good news, to hear the good news, to generate good news in a bad time.
This little book offers some musings, reflections, lessons and observations from my recent journeys and experiments with Gospel nonviolence. In the first part, I share my convictions and insights about the nonviolence of Jesus, the Beatitudes, the nature of God, and the mystery of the resurrection. In the second part, I relate stories from our protests against the Los Alamos Nuclear Weapons Laboratories, the School of the Americas, and the U.S. war on Iraq, followed by the third section’s journals from missions to Gandhi’s India and war-torn Colombia. In the fourth section, I reflect on the peacemakers who inspire me most these days--from legendary figures such as Dr. King, Thich Nhat Hanh and Cesar Chavez, to priests like Henri Nouwen and Bill O’Donnell, to poets like Joan Baez and Denise Levertov, to resisters like Sophie Scholl and Franz Jagerstatter. The book concludes with reflections on care for the earth, the teachings of Thomas Merton, and the vision of a new world without war, poverty, violence or nuclear weapons.
I offer these pages as a word of hope to encourage you to take another step on your journey of Gospel, despite the horrors of our violent world and the hopelessness that would keep us down. I believe we are intended to live in peace--with ourselves, one another, all humanity, all creation, and the God of peace--and that such a life, individually and globally, is possible. We cannot wait to receive it as a gift from the culture of war. We need to live it now as a sign of our faith in the God of peace, as a clue to our entrance into God’s reign of peace, as a gift to one another, as a way into hope for ourselves and the whole human race.
I pray that these reflections inspire you on your journey to peace and embolden you to pursue the coming of a new world without war, poverty, violence or nuclear weapons, a new world of nonviolence, with even greater hope, that you too might hear the good news and take heart once more.
-- John Dear
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