My dream of peace for our world fades to seeming nothingness. Many of us who served in World War II thought foolishly that the conflict was bearable because our sons would not have to repeat it. Then almost immediately after discharge, many veterans were recalled to serve in Korea. My own father had been shell-shocked and gassed in 1918 in the "war to end all wars."
Violence has characterized the years of my long life: Vietnam and now the savagery in the Middle East. While I've always prayed for peace, I have done little to promote it. Thus I welcomed a recent invitation to a meeting of Veterans for Peace. My experiences in the infantry medics as a young man produced a self-professed, lifelong pacifist. Perhaps this group could teach me new ways to make peace.
We met one Saturday morning in a church hall — a local Muslim with us — chewed breakfast snacks and shared war experiences. This deeply sincere group of elderly men believes peacemaking means going to group meetings, being nice to alien people and writing letters to the editor of the right-wing local paper. I didn't go back.
In these days since Sept. 11, many look upon the nonviolent as unpatriotic and want to reprise the early 1940s, when war seemed a needful Christian duty. But war has never worked in history. We have reduced our Prince of Peace to a fountainhead of violence. How God must cry over the mess we humans make of the world.
What can I do to bring about peace? For me, it's not joining a small group. I talked about peace in my college classes. I refused to let my sons have toy guns and almost never discussed my war experiences with them. If son Bill had decided to go to Canada during the Vietnam War, he would have gone with my blessing. I keep telling myself I have not done enough.
My wife, Irene, and I are blessed to be spending our last years in a Mennonite-sponsored retirement community. I've recently looked around at the lives of those with whom we now live, wondering if there is something more about making peace I can still learn. I have but a few more years to contribute to God's world. How can I make it a bit more loving? Most of our neighbors aren't members of peace churches, but there is an aura of compassion in this community — an intent toward truly sacrificial giving to one another.
As I write, I think, too, of the school shooting that tragically struck the Pennsylvania Amish community last year. What a powerful difference between the vengeful violence that wracks most of the world and that community's sincere and gracious forgiveness. Have these simple people discovered something angelic that may help all of us Christians overcome our penchant to attack problems viciously? Until I die, I vow to let the old Methodist hymn govern what remains of my life: "Brighten the corner where you are."
This week's front page features:
Letters from war: Dusty box uncovered in church attic connects generations. (Photo at right.)We have a new Web site:
A harvest of crops and compassion: Despite drought, Minnesota farm families donate a portion of harvest to the poor.
Helping art make cents: At Finlandia's business incubator, artists gain business skills and opportunities.
The way we were: 1963. Four Lutheran military chaplains took a leap of faith during their time at Fort Campbell.
Also: Stocking shelves.
Also: Evangelism tip: Up and at 'em ...
Also: Our faith: Gifts for growing community.
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You may have noticed that The Lutheran has a new Web site and that this e-newsletter looks different too. We hope you'll find both attractive and easier to navigate.Discuss harvest compassion:
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Join Terri Mork Speirs (right) to discuss how despite drought, Minnesota farm families donated a portion of their harvest to the poor.This week on our blog:
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Sonia Solomonson blogs about wellness.
Guest blogger Justin Baxter (right) writes about waiting.
Andrea Pohlmann blogs about food for the mind and food for people in need.
Amber Leberman writes about The Lutheran's new Web site.
Julie Sevig blogs about building community.
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