Magazine article Tikkun

50th Anniversary Strategy for Peace Action

Magazine article Tikkun

50th Anniversary Strategy for Peace Action

Article excerpt

DURING THE WORST PERIOD OF THE COLD WAR-when the U.S. government and the Soviet Union were threatening each other with nuclear war and not engaging in peacemaking-my pastor went to Moscow and preached in the Baptist church there. And he invited the pastor of the Moscow Baptist Church to come preach in our church.

A vision came to me-one of those epiphanies when you remember exactly where you were sitting and what struck you. I received a vision of the church as truly following Jesus and making a real difference for peacemaking. That vision has stayed with me for life.

My talents were in physics, and I won some prizes. So I studied physics at the University of Virginia, and worked summers doing nuclear physics research at the Naval Research Lab in Washington. It was fascinating. But I remembered that vision: we don't need better bombs; we need better ethics so those bombs don't go off.

So I surprised my girlfriend: "I've decided not to get my Ph.D. in physics, but instead to go to Southern Baptist Theological Seminary." She didn't say a word, but I knew what she was thinking: "Cross one more off my list." Nevertheless, she followed me to seminary. And I studied to follow that vision.

But the U.S.S.R. and the United States kept building more and more nuclear weapons, enough to destroy the world. In a sermon on Jeremiah 4:19-31, which reads like nuclear devastation, I cried out: "God, what are you doing? You are supposed to be in charge of history. But these bombs are about to destroy everybody. Are you really Lord or not?" So when Randall Forsberg called for a Nuclear Weapons Freeze Campaign, I joined. I am an evangelical Jesus-following peacemaker. What other kind of Christian is there?

The Freeze Campaign has now joined with SANE (The Committee for a SANE Nuclear Policy) to form the largest grassroots peacemaking organization in the United States, Peace Action. This year Peace Action is celebrating its 50th anniversary-dating from the beginning of SANE, which had rocketed to national attention with its ad picturing the world's most famous pethatrician, Dr. Benjamin Spock, looking glumly down at a young child, while nuclear testing was continuing. The caption read: "Dr. Spock is worried."

Peace Action is worried now-about the administration's unilateralism. This administration has left or blocked eight international treaties (most of them designed to stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction), declared three wars in one term, ignored international law designed to protect prisoners from torture, and refused to talk with crucial players around Iraq, one of which may be developing nuclear weapons.

For its celebration, Peace Action has just published a strikingly readable book showing major victories peace organizing has won-Peace Action: Past, Present, and Future (Paradigm Press). Its concluding chapter lays out Peace Action's new unifying strategy: "Real Security through International Cooperation and Human Rights'.' Here is a nutshell summary. Like Tikkun, Peace Action knows we need a framing narrative that clearly diagnoses the problem (reliance on go-it-alone unilateralism) and a clear alternative (start cooperating with the treaties that stop the spread of weapons of mass destruction, prevent torture of defenseless prisoners, prevent further unilateral "preemptive" interventionist wars, work with other nations and the United Nations, whose cooperation is crucial for reducing recruitment to terrorism). …

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