lenten journal: conspiracy of peace


    Some days I think there is a conspiracy among our customers at the Inn. We will go days without selling much of a particular menu item and then sell ten or fifteen of that item in a couple of hours for no apparent reason. I think the customers are messing with us. My working theory is they gather at the convenience store across the street and decide what one thing they all will order and then stagger the times they come into the restaurant to eat. At other times when they know we are short staffed, they wait at the store until they get a group and then all come into together. I’m thinking of demanding the security tapes from the convenience store so I can prove my point.

    When my brother was in junior high, he and some of his friends decided they would see if they could get everyone in the school to slam their locker doors at the same time. In those days (as some of you will remember), the hands on the big clocks that hung in the hall jumped from one minute to the next. They chose the minute exactly in the middle of the afternoon passing period and decided they would do nothing more than tell people and ask them to pass it on: “Locker slam at 1:32.”

    Miller said at 1:30 he began to notice how many people were standing at their lockers, trying to look as though they were doing something. When the hand jumped from 1:31 to 1:32, a boom reverberated up and down the concrete halls of school and the teachers couldn’t think of anything else to do but start handing our detention passes wholesale. I think their rationale was anything that organized must be wrong.

    Tonight, the customers conspired to see how many could order sauerbraten, which is the German version of pot roast. More than half my tickets wanted that dish and all but ate up what I had on hand for the evening. They scared me so much that I started preparing a new batch so Chef can finish it up tomorrow (the meat has to marinate overnight).

    While we were on the retreat this weekend, several thousand folks conspired to gather in Washington DC to protest the war in Iraq. A significant part of the protest was the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq, the combined conspiracy of most everyone from Adventists to Catholics and Pentecostals to the UCC. They worshipped together in the National Cathedral on Friday night and then marched on the White House and the Pentagon in an expression of nonviolent civil disobedience. There were no detention passes handed out, but two hundred people were arrested. Their web site described their purpose in this way:

    Some have asked why our faith-based action in Washington, D.C., is a Christian event and not a multifaith one. All of us who have planned this event highly value interfaith collaboration. Our purpose is to share a vision of how all of God’s people – of all faiths – can live in peace. As Christians, we are keenly aware of the way that Jesus consistently surprised his friends and his enemies by responding in love to those who attacked him. Further, the gospel makes clear that there is a direct connection between the work of doing justice and being peacemakers. Therefore:

    • We remind ourselves of the life and teachings of Jesus as the Prince of Peace, the lover of enemies, and the reconciler of the world.
    • We ask God to work a change of heart in our elected leaders who have carried out this war in all of our names, and we ask for God’s forgiveness for the suffering of so many in Iraq and the United States during the course of the war.
    • We accept responsibility to witness to our faith, especially Jesus’ hard teachings that secure communities are built on the foundation of living in right relationship with one another.

    We look forward to the day when all people know that the word “Christian” means a movement that yearns and aches for the Kingdom of God to come here on Earth with people of all faiths.

    One of the reasons it is significant to me that this particular protest was explicitly Christian is the justification of the war in Iraq often carries religious overtones, as if the war is Christian vs. Muslim. Bush intimates, often without much subtlety, that God is on our side because we are fighting for freedom and God is for freedom. I’m proud of the people who conspired to say God is for peace and so are many American Christians.

    As of today, the number of Americans killed in Iraq is 3218.
    The number of wounded is more difficult to nail down, but is over 26,000.
    The number of Iraqi dead is between 60,000 and 65,000.
    The amount of money we have spent waging the war is nearing $410 trillion.

    Those numbers were shouted at me from the various web sites keeping count. The political rhetoric is too often snide and damaging from both sides of the aisle. So to see this picture of a conspiracy of peace at work helped me. They worshipped together, prayed together, walked together, and some even spent the night in jail together, all in Jesus’ name.

    I remember the day my brother came home from school and told me about the locker slam. He was invigorated by his ability to call people to action. “Next week we’re going to boycott the rolls during lunch,” he said. (And they did.) Last month, he led a group to Guatemala on a mission trip. He’s never stopped trying to gather a crowd to change things. I hope he never does.

    Jim Wallis and others have done great work calling Christians to be peacemakers. I hope they continue calling us to conspiracy.



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