“What makes the church ‘radical’…is not that the church leans to the left on most social issues, but rather that the church knows Jesus whereas the world does not. In the churches view, the political left is not noticeably more interesting than the political right, both tend towards solutions that act as if the world has not ended and begun in Jesus. Big words like Peace and Justice, slogans the church adopts under the presumption that, even if people do not know what ‘Jesus Christ is Lord’ means, they will know what Peace and Justice means, are words awaiting content. It is Jesus’ story that gives content to our faith, judges any institutional embodiment of our faith, and teaches us to be suspicious of any political slogan that does not need God to make itself credible…Most of our social activism is formed on the presumption that God is superfluous to the formation of a world of peace with justice.” — Stanley Hauerwas
Here’s Shane Claiborne’s take on what we did (sure he gets a few details wrong, but whatever).
Spent early January hanging out at the National Christian Youth Convention where they asked Jess and I to provide one of 32 practical activities for the young people to try (called ‘Submersion Day’). It was a day of social action, so other groups planted trees, helped out in people’s gardens, made slums on the steps of Parliament House, did flash mobbing for Stop the Traffik etc etc. We decided to stage a vigil outside the Melbourne offices of BAe Systems (formerly British Aerospace), the third largest weapons manufacturer in the world (after Lockheed Martin and Boeing).
We ended up with about 120 young people (!), most of whom had never so much as participated in a march or protest before. They were pretty apprehensive (that would be an understatement) but we offered a range of options for them to take up or they could do whatever they wanted so no one was forced to do something they weren’t comfortable doing.
BAe helped us out by parking elsewhere for the day so we had the entire carpark to ourselves (they barricaded themselves inside with the shutters drawn…scary Christian peace people). So we spent about 3 1/2 hours there, starting with a liturgy (attached) then encouraging people
to do their own thing…we covered the carpark with chalked messages, made banners, some went over the road to the shopping centre and leafletted people, wrote letters to the PM, chalked the bike path behind the building, held silent vigils outside the door, staged a die-in, and then finished by marching around the building seven times to the sounds of chanting and a conch shell being blown by the Pacific Islanders. Highlights included people in the office building next door putting up a sign in their window saying, “Make Love Not War”, a tourist from Queensland who was so inspired walking past that she stayed and vigilled with us for an hour, and an Islander elder who belted out the Beatitudes like I’ve never heard them before.
The joy and freedom was palpable – we were just gobsmacked by how the fear and apprehension of the day before gave way to excitement and exuberance (despite the three squad cars waiting for us outside the building). Going in I’d been concerned about tokenism and ‘protest tourism’ but I reckon all of that was blown away by the breaking down of barriers and the inspiration it provided for a really diverse and generally conservative crew. Jess used the parable of the sower to describe how it had affected people – probably some not at all, others it might take a while to sink in or bear fruit, and others who were just instantly changed and into it.
And having established relationships with BAe security, it might have good potential for a regular vigil, especially as they’re building a huge new office/factory over the road from their current one (Victoria St Abbotsford).
John’s been on a roll lately in his NCR column as he does his book tour around the US…here’s just a couple of selections…click the links for the whole article.
I’ve encountered many activists over the years, and a good many seething with anger. And who would blame them? But I’ve learned that in the end, anger consumes our heart’s energies and can lead us to abandon our work for justice and peace. We saw this in the 1960s when many young people railed against the Vietnam War and their anger erupted in violent protests. Because they did not go beyond their anger into the spiritual roots of peacemaking, I think many gave up the journey to peace.
My own experience seems to bear that out. The more you learn about injustice, war and poverty, the more overwhelmed you can get. Things are far worse, you discover, than you first realized. Anger is often the first emotion on the scene. But anger doesn’t sustain you for the long haul work of lifelong peacemaking and nonviolent resistance.
Everywhere I go, someone asks, “Are you saying we cannot use violence any more?” Yes, I answer. “How then do we defend ourselves from someone who intends to do us harm? How do we defend ourselves from terrorists who want to hurt us? How do we defend ourselves from other nations?” “Nonviolently!” I answer.
We’re so used to violence. We easily believe the myth of redemptive violence, the lie of war, the false spirituality of violence, the misguided notion that might makes right, that war is justified, that our weapons protect us, that violence works. I suspect we don’t trust God, don’t think God can protect us, don’t take Jesus seriously. In the end, such questions reveal our lack of faith. Do we believe in the God of peace or not?