Saturday, October 27, 2007

whatever kindles

I just got home from a play called Whatever Kindles. It's about Christian Peacemaker Teams, a group that does nonviolent resistance, intervention and accompaniment in conflict situations around the world. This play is by a f/Friend of mine named Tricia Gates Brown, and it is amazing! This was the first time the play has been produced ever (well, last night was the first performance). Tricia did a wonderful job of showing the good things about CPT, the hard things, and the internal struggles that happen when in the midst of conflict situations--how everything is suddenly not so black and white, so easily categorized, so easy to tell people to "just get along"...

In the play the characters tell their stories of involvement with CPT, their hopes, fears, doubts, uncertainties, joys, and conviction. It was inspiring, but not in the way that you want to go out and join up, but in the way that it forces you to seriously think about all the options, and hits you squarely in the conscience in a way that's hard to ignore.

I've wanted to join CPT for several years now but the timing hasn't been right yet. Now with a little baby I don't know when the timing will ever be right, so I ask myself, why not now? If not now, when? Other people's children live in those conflict areas (Israel/Palestine, Colombia, Iraq, etc.), and they can't leave. How can I say, "I have a child," as an excuse not to go help them? At the same time, is it helpful to put myself and my child's future at risk unnecessarily when my being there won't change the situation for those other kids and families?

But the thing is, my being there would change the situation. For some reason, when people are there watching, others have a harder time being so violent. When those involved in using violent force encounter someone who sees them and treats them as a human, they are less able/willing to dehumanize all the people they are told to victimize. So my being there could change the level of danger for someone else's kids, and it's not likely I would die (only one CPTer, Tom Fox, has ever died as a result of their presence in these conflict areas).

And even if I died, wouldn't that have a positive effect (in some ways) on my little boy, who would grow up knowing that I lived what I believed and was willing to die for it?

I guess I just feel like a hypocrite sometimes--no, maybe more than sometimes. I feel like I do a lot of talking but not much putting my life on the line, not much where I have to get outside my comfort zone. At the same time, CPT is a "safe" thing for me to do that would sound really amazing and world-altering, but am I able to do peacemaking in my own community? Shouldn't I start here? Am I willing to step out and "Get in the Way" (as is the CPT motto) here, where I have more at stake? Even closer to home, am I willing to work on the places of violence in my own heart here and now, to make peace in my relationships and family? Wouldn't it be just as hypocritical to go out and try to make other people make peace without making peace in my own area of influence?

Perhaps, but at least I need to be doing something. How much waiting around and planning and "getting educated" can a person do before they act? Will a person actually act if they get stuck in the rut of "preparation"? I need some motivation to actually get out there and do something.

The title of the play comes from a quote by Theresa de Avila, where she says to do "whatever kindles love." What kindles love in me? What kindles love in you? Why is it so hard to get ourselves to do the things we love and are truly passionate about?


Leah said...

wow, these are some amazing thoughts. I am inspired by your courage to confront what is going on inside of you.

Will T said...

I hear your confusion about what to do about peacemaking. I don't know the answer but I can tell you a story.

During the Vietnam War my older brother turned in his draft cards and quit his CO job. Many of my friends in Young Friends of North America and in the New Swarthmoor community were draft resisters. I wasn't. I felt very conflicted about this. As I saw it, my options were to move to Canada or go to jail. Instead of doing either I asked for a clearness committee.

We met and as we talked and I explained what I was thinking it became clear to me and to everyone else that, regardless of what I thought my options were, I was not being called to draft resistance. Once I had clearness on that I felt a weight lifted from me. As I reflect on my maturity level at the time, either of those options would have been a disaster for me.

It turned out that there was another option. Do nothing. By the time my draft board discovered that I had dropped out of college and classified me 1A (which meant available to be drafted) the war had started winding down and I never got called.

It is easy to come up with a long list of things we think we should be doing. This is why for big things, it is useful to get a group of people you trust to help you discern what you are called to do.


Will T

Anonymous said...

I hear your confusion about what to do about peacemaking. I don't know the answer but I can tell you a story.
"and it's not likely I would die (only one CPTer, Tom Fox, has ever died as a result of their presence in these conflict areas)." We should not forget the death of Rachel Corrie, killed by the Israeli army trying to protect a palestinian house, 16 mar 03.

Please keep in mind that any time you put yourself in "harms way" anything can happen, or maybe I should say you have no control over the flow of events.

I have been in war situations and I know that Will has the better idea. It may seem glamerous to be in the thick of things, but once there its to late for a clearness committee.

Unknown said...

Will, that's a good reminder to not just worry about what I "should" be doing based on what I think is right, but to do what I'm called to. It's hard to tell the difference sometimes, because it seems like we should live out our ideals to the best of our ability, but I know that looks different for everyone. I guess I just want to make sure I'm doing something--even in your brother's case doing nothing was doing something. I don't just want to talk about all this stuff and not live it.

And to the anonymous poster, I am not forgetting Rachel Corrie, but she wasn't with CPT. That doesn't diminish the fact that her death happened in a similar way as it would had she been on CPT, and that if we count all the organizations that do similar work there would be more deaths to count, but there would also remain a high percentage of people who risked their lives but were not hurt. Much higher than joining the army!

And thanks, Leah, for your comment. You inspire me, too!

Anonymous said...

Hi Cherice ~ This is Tricia. Someone forwarded your blog post to me. I would like to send you a note, but not in the "public domain." The inner wrestling you write about is very similar to inner wrestling I experienced about 10 years ago before joining CPT. I would like to tell you that story. Please email me your address. Joel has my email. More soon, Tricia