Any frequent reader of this blog knows that I have maintained a somewhat obsessive focus on the Afghanistan war over the last two years. If there’s a long break between posts that touch on Christian nonviolence, it’s because I’m writing furiously about Afghanistan, and if there’s a long break between posts in general, it’s usually because I’m too busy working on the Rethink Afghanistan project at work to write at all. I’m in one of those periods now, and the only reason I’m writing this post at all is because I’m awake at 4:30 a.m. after too much caffeine and a mid-day nap. This is how I operate: I become obsessed with a topic or a project to the exclusion of others, and if I don’t watch myself, I’ll run myself completely into the ground working on it.
I guess it’s a good thing I was never into drugs or alcohol.
Lately, I’m doing a better job putting my life back into balance. I am back in the gym regularly, I’m doing a better job getting out and about in the morning (I work from home from noon to 9 p.m.), and I’m taking care of the yard work as a way to get some sun and physical activity during the day. These have been very happy adjustments to my routine.
I am in the midst, however, of a more somber readjustment: my wife and I are leaving our church community. Nothing specific has happened, and we’re not leaving in a fit of pique or with hard feelings. Our rector is an extremely kind and caring priest, and is a wonderfully talented public speaker, and we’ve found the community to be very welcoming. However, we do have a very strong disagreement with what we perceive as the pervading attitudes about the permissibility of violence–in particular, violence in service to the state. My wife and I came to hold very strong feelings about the uncompromising nonviolence at the core of Jesus’ ethic to the point that it’s an article of faith for us.
Our rector understands our views, and I believe he sympathizes greatly with them. In fact, he’s been extremely supportive of our efforts to start an Episcopal Peace Fellowship chapter, and of our recent nonviolence training. He’s encouraged us to keep pushing the issue and to keep holding meetings and leading classes on the topic. The problem, though, is that our church community is divided on the issue, and we definitely perceive ourselves to be in the minority. And, unfortunately, this dynamic seems to hold throughout the Episcopal Diocese of Texas. As I wrote earlier:
Those of us who many would label as “peace activists” are constantly cautioned to go slow, to be diplomatic, to think carefully before we speak to our brothers and sisters, and [as far as I know] rare is the instance when those who disagree with us on these issues are urged to do the same. We are constantly subjected to patronizing head-patting in the form of “wouldn’t it be nice if the world worked that way” preaching and commentary.
As much as I’d like to take my rector up on his invitation to continue the soul-changing work of raising a flag for nonviolence in a church community where that philosophy is foreign, I need some place to rest inside a community where that ethic is the norm. There has to be a time and place during my week where I don’t have to be taking the ramparts for my ethical convictions, where I can commune with others who believe as I do that the early church had it right when they spoke unequivocally against violence, even violence in service to the state.
Simply put, we need rest and support. Everyone involved in any kind of activism needs the same.