Monday, June 27, 2011

Peace Reader: Essential Readings on War, Justice, Non-Violence and World Order, edited by Joseph Fahey and Richard Armstrong

Peace Reader: Essential Readings on War, Justice, Non-Violence and World Order contains 475 pages of selective readings including documents, statements, case studies, letters, essays, points of view, and non-violent strategies for social change and national security. It is divided into four sections:  War and the Arms Race; Justice for All; Non-Violence: Philosophy and Strategy;  Other Forms of Conflict Resolution; and World Order.  Each of the sections has a variety of writings on various aspects of the main topic, each of them preceded by an introduction and followed by  questions for discussion.  It is a valuable resource for high school and college courses, for adult education programs, and for individuals dedicated to peacemaking.
To indicate the thorough treatment of each topic, here are the titles included in Section One, War and the Arms Race:  The Causes of War; Escalation of Arms Races; Military Spending and Economic Decay; Militarism in America; Deep Roots of the Arms Race; Nuclear Terror: Moral Paradox; ROTC Today and Tomorrow; Investigation of New Conflicts and Defense; Military Service; and The Conscientious Objector.
Of the letters written, you will find most interesting three of them in Section Two on Justice for All:  Chief Seattle's message to President Pierce, on his acceptance of the request to sell his tribal lands to the U.S. Government (in which he says that to his people, all land is sacred and they cannot understand how anyone can "own" land, but that yes, he would agree to sell it to the "Great Chief in Washington"…as he knows that if they do not accept the offer, it will be taken from them by force); a long letter by Martin Luther King from a Birmingham Jail (explaining  to his fellow-clergymen  the urgency of taking action in the form of demonstrations to achieve social justice for Black people); and a letter of William Penn to the Delaware Indians, (offering peace and signed with "I am your loving friend.") 
You will find this peace compendium a treasure, informative and  thought-provoking.

Simplicity: The Art of Living by Richard Rohr

Once again, Richard Rohr, an international spiritual leader, calls the Church back to its roots in his book, "Simplicity: The Art of Living."  The book contains a series of talks he gave in Germany, full of insight, wisdom and challenge.  Each talk is followed by questions and answers.  The author speaks with authority, citing the joy that follows a life of simple living and love of God and of all creation, as lived by St. Francis of Assisi.

As usual, Rohr used provocative titles for some of the chapters in his book -- "God the Father --God the Mother?"; "Getting Rid of the Church;"  and  "What is this "Women's Stuff?"  He also speaks of the challenge of contemplation, the political commitment of Christians and their vocation to live the simple life.  He gives guides to that simple life, evoking the principal that "Less is More."
Of our concept of God, he says many of us have a Santa Claus image, others a Zeus-image, of a god who hurls thunderbolts. But when God calls Jesus "dear son", and even speaks of himself as a hen gathering chicks under her wings, and Jesus calls God "Abba", we see something of the feminine in God, the sympathy, compassion, love and  forgiveness. It may be our need for the feminine that we have a devotion to Mary, God's Mother.
Of the Church, Rohr reminds us of Jesus' speaking of the Church as a community of human beings, a little flock, the yeast, the leaven, not the "whole thing."  But we often see the Church as only institutional, sectarian, legalistic.  The early Christians and the base communities in Latin America portray another image of "church" and their reciprocal relationship with the institutional Church.
Richard Rohr offers surprising and original thoughts about the Church, the Reign of God, the importance of the simple life, prayer, contemplation, the Body of Christ, the Christian vocation in the social and political life of the world and the "patriarchal view" vs. the women's contribution to Church and society.  I invite you to read his book.

Wednesday, June 1, 2011

The Great Turning: From Empire to Earth Community by David C. Korten

Dr. David Korten is founder and president of the People-Centered Development Forum.  His many books include  When Corporations Rule the World, an international great-seller.  The Great Turning begins with 22 expressions of praise of the book, written by such "greats" as Matthew Fox and several Founders, Executive Directors , co-Founders and board Members of Human Rights groups, of other People and Peace-oriented organizations and the Earth Charter.  The book is acclaimed as "prophetic";  "a call to compassion and a blueprint for survival";  "a profound and inspiring masterpiece";  and "a must-read" for everyone who yearns to create a positive, human future" --among other praises.
Korten traces the history of the human species from the very beginning of its existence, and he claims that the people of the first billions of years lived as "Earth Community," in harmony with creation and in relative peace with one another.  But in the past 5,000 years, gathered into villages, cities and nations, humankind has yielded to greed and the desire for power, and they governed in the Empire model.  Throughout the centuries, attempts were made, primarily by the Greek Hellenists and leaders of the American colonies, to create democracies with "people power" and equal rights.   But all these attempts were flawed.  The very proponents of equality were the wealthy elite; some had slaves with no rights at all; servant s had very little rights, and the same can be said of  women  in those days.   Proclaiming the presence of   equal rights and "democracy" was merely political rhetoric.   Korten claims that we are not a true democracy and we never were, that in reality we are still in the Empire mode, governed  by a wealthy elite of predominately white men.  We have kept our position by force, might and warfare.
He does see signs of hope, however, as a growing number of Americans are "waking up" to reality.  Read the book.  It is powerful!