Getting beyond tooting our own horn

I honked to stop the war again tonight as I was driving with the rush hour traffic on Lincoln Drive. Horns were echoing up and down the drive, reverberating like they had a few weeks ago when I first joined in the action of horn-honking to stop the war. It’s been my only real action that has manifested anything to react to the war in Iraq.

Earlier today while I was at Barnes and Noble I noticed that there was an overwhelming number of books, calling for a halt to the war and for reconsideration of US American actions and responses in the War on Terror. Honking to stop the war on Lincoln Drive feels so safe and even trendy these pre-election days.

Last Friday, while sitting in a lecture with Eddie Gibbs, a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary, and Dean Trulear, a professor at Howard University, we discussed the US American tendency to favor what works over what is true. I think that principle applies to our current situation. Initially it seemed like the war on terror that includes the foray into conflict with Saddam Hussein’s Iraq would work. It would solve some lingering problems, enlarge the field for emerging Asian democracies and make US Americans feel safer post 9-11. Now it seems that we’re ready to say that what we were doing isn’t or wasn’t really working and we’re starting to say that across party lines and in mixed company.

I don’t really count myself as an anti-war activist. I am committed to nonviolence, not because I believe it is always what works, but because I believe it is what is true (and lovely and beautiful and holy and all those things that early church leader Paul suggested in one of his letters). And what is true is not always easy and doesn’t always “work.”

Contemporary European philosophers would suggest that there’s some sort of disconnect then with what is real, what is true and what works.

What is real these days is that I have to take off my shoes and keep only trial size bottles of liquids with me in my carry-on. And while I was in the airport the loudspeaker reminded me that we were in code orange for terror potentiality. What is real is that a high school friend named Tristan who I played soccer with was killed in the field in Iraq.

None of these things really “work” for me. I don’t feel any safer now that I can’t take mouthwash with me onto an aircraft. I don’t even know what to make of the terror alert colors and how I’d behave differently whether it’s green, yellow or orange. Though I haven’t talked to Tristan for years, I feel mostly just sad that he was killed in the midst of a conflict and cause that’s losing its nobility.

Honking to end the war is easy. I can do it every night. We honk for lesser things in Philly. But I feel like I join a bandwagon, those who know that the war isn’t working, rather than those who would choose nonviolence even when its hard, not because it works but because its true and beautiful and reveals the Creator. In the Broadway musical, Rent, there is a line that suggests, “the opposite of war isn’t peace, it’s creation.” I wonder what those of us who want to incarnate Jesus-inspired nonviolence might be prepared to create?

This week many of us will go to the polls with the war on terror and in Iraq on our mind. And next weekend, Franconia Mennonite Conference will gather as well, affirming its leaders and again affirming the tradition of nonresistant faith that we’ve confessed for decades. Both of these acts whether polling levers or using touch screens or standing to say decades old words of commitments to nonresistance are in this time and setting as easy as honking our horns. They don’t require much reflective action or thought and we can join with others who are doing the same.

As peace-loving Mennonites, it’s easy to get caught up in saying that we knew a war wouldn’t work; that violence never solves anything. I don’t think that’s a sufficient response these days. For those of us who believe that peacemakers are blessed, there’s an invitation to consider what it means to do more than honk horns, go to the polls and affirm confessions of faith that remind us of a nonresistant history. What might (or already does) manifest if and when we embrace the blessed calling from the Sermon on the Mount to be known as the sons and daughters of God? What is it that might take us beyond this reality into at least a glimpse of what is true and lovely and might even be stunningly beautiful?