The Klamath Basin Peace Forum

February 4, 2006

Messangers of Peace and Justice

Filed under: Uncategorized — kbpeaceforum @ 4:19 pm

I find myself very perplexed by the events of this past week. Coretta Scott King has died. Her life exemplified service towards radical transformation of an ailing society towards one that might someday illuminate the truth about the unity of all men and women, a society of justice. Cindy Sheehan, a Gold Star Mother, was arrested at the venue for the State of the Union Address for wearing a shirt that stated the number of US troops killed in Iraq. Another woman wearing a shirt saying support the troops was asked to leave. Arrested vs. being asked to leave–mmmm, equal responses to perceived protest or support? Then Bono, rock star, social activist, prophet, and preacher, speaks at the National Prayer Breakfast. His homily is printed below, it is on-line, it is at Sojourners Magazine’s website. Before getting to the heart of his prophecies he asked, “Mr. President are you sure about this?”

To me these three events are intertwined and woven together in a way that almost makes my mind twist itself into knots. I can almost sense the neuro-pathways of my mind being altered, and perhaps “altared”.

Mrs. Coretta Scott King was a reformer. She gave up her husband for the movement. Moving past the suppositions about his faithfulness to her, which is irrelevant, really, to the issues of his dedication to civil rights and social and economic justice, she was faithful to him and the work towards which he dedicated and gave his life. It was a foregone conclusion that he would at some time be crucified for daring to lead a race of people, then an impoverished and hungry nation, and finally a world filled with economic and social inequality to a new vision based on the nonviolent principles of a Hindu sage, Gandhi. He knew and Coretta Scott knew that one day he would pay the ultimate price for delivering his prophetic message.

Then we have the message of Cindy Sheehan. “Mr. President, meet with me about why my son died in Iraq! Why are we fighting this war?” She wanted more than what she perceived as the automatic and autocratic murmurings of insincere condolences. She wanted dialogue and meaningful public discourse about this war. She is invited to the state of the union. She was escorted to her place in the gallery. She takes off her coat. She wears a shirt proclaiming the number of troops who had died and asked how many more, and was taken by force out of the hall and arrested. All this was prior to the presidential speech in which he honored one of the families of a soldier who died in Iraq. Sheehan dares to ask how many more must die and is arrested. The president honors one death in symbolic thanks for all who died and he is in the limelight, but after all, he is the president who orchestrated this all. Another woman, invited to the affair, escorted to her seat, takes off her jacket, is wearing a shirt with a message support the troops, is also “removed” from the venue, but she is asked and is treated with respect. Prophets, protests, and protected rights seem to depend on who delivers the message and in what parlance. The emperor who wears no clothes has often been protected from the discomfort of the winds of social change. If the message is a difficult one to hear, he is protected from hearing that perception of the truth.

Then Bono speaks. It made my brow furrow wondering who called upon Bono to do this. His message was based on scripture, as one would expect at the National Prayer Breakfast. His message was based on the traditional prophetic tendency to warn a people of how they are incurring displeasure of the divine. He talked about social justice and how it is what we are not doing that will be the measure of our relationship with the divine.

In talking about the state of the Union in Africa, Bono mentioned illness, he mentioned poverty, he mentioned hunger, he mentioned wars, and he mentioned the great fires of injustice and inequality that are devastating this continent of millions of people. He mentioned numbers and tithing. A 1% increase in giving to Africa could make all the difference in the world to that continent—a 1% increase. He talked about the difference between charity and justice. He talked about the jubilee year. He proclaimed a vision where the ills of hunger, poverty, illness and despair could be reversed with a 1% increase in justice giving. (My phrase).

The interconnection between these three is that Bono’s vision is in keeping with the prophetic voices of the Kings’ vision and prophetic voice. Bono’s visionary comments were peace making and justice creating. Sheehan was speaking out for justice and peace as well as for imperial accountability.

How many more must die in Iraq, in Africa, in Palestine and Israel, in American cities. Simon and Garfunkle once wrote in their song “The Sounds of Silence”: The words of the prophets are written on the subway walls and tenement halls, and echoed in the sounds of silence.”

I would say to you as I write these words, the voice of prophecy will not be silenced. We can honor Mrs. King by dedicating ourselves to Peace and Justice issues, to love one another the way we have been loved, by living the message. We can support those women and men who dare ask why and how many more must die by asking for accountability, we can heed the words of the prophets and insist that budgets be moral documents and that at least 1% more of the federal budget be spent in aid to the poorest of the poor and insist that we move beyond charity to justice.

From the clay soil of Georgia, where Mrs. King lies in state, to the jails of the capital where protest is halted and free speech silenced, and yet heard reverberating through out the land, from the pulpit of the National Prayer Breakfast, the words of the prophets have moved from subways and tenements, to the heart of the nation. Will we hear the Good News?

Justice can rise out of the tomb of hatred and assassination. Justice can rise out of the blind hypocrisy of petty bureaucrats. Justice can rise out of a shift in understanding.

Mrs. King…. Ms. Sheehan…Bono… Protesters, prophets and prophetesses, troublemakers, radical reformers, messengers. Time will tell.

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