During a civil war…

Question: During a civil (or not so civil) war, how do contemplatives take a stand?

After 23 years as a Quaker, (one of the Christian peacemaking traditions), and a few decades of seeking to become a contemplative, (one who practices the presence of God), I am looking for a path to walk in these times of war. (I define civil war as a time when people in a country are attacked, and their lives are threatened, for having differing views or even just being different in any way).

To date in human history, I know of no war instituted by women. Not one. And that includes wars in America. So let’s be clear that males bring war. So peacemakers must find ways to address and remedy the male bent toward oppression, domination, destruction, and the false, dualistic belief that the world consists of only winners and losers.

Rev. John Winn recently summarized a talk on peacemaking with these words: “The peacemaker stands in the gap between the way things are and the way things ought to be.” I have spent a lot of time meditating on these words, and I believe that this is a place to begin addressing the testosterone-fueled masculine tendency to create scenarios of winners and losers. The peacemaker must face the reality of the uninitiated male.

The uninitiated male seeks to avoid suffering by dominating. If he feels inferior, he acts as though he is a superior. When insecure, he threatens. He only knows a world of up and down, and so he believes for him to be up – others have to be down. He knows nothing of win-win relationships. And he would scoff at the idea of an I-Thou relationship, where each person is treated as a sacred being made in the image of God.

Now here’s the kicker for a male peacemaker and beginning contemplative: there is an uninitiated male in me. I cannot help my brother without facing how he is me. I too would like to avoid my insecurities and suffering by focusing on the perceived faults of others and how “wrong” the “other side” is. When I feel insecure, I want to belittle my opponents, (including political and religious opponents). I watch football. I feel bad when my team loses. I watch violent movies too. I like seeing my hero win, even if he has to slay thousands. The win-lose uninitiated male lives in me too.

And the solution is not to deny, squelch, or conquer this uninitiated male in me. That is only more war. War does not end war. Inner transformation ends war.

To be a true peacemaker, I will need to stand in the gap between how things are in me, and how things ought to be in me. I will need to Source my life in something more profound than the uninitiated male in me. I will need to dig deep, on a daily basis, for the solid Ground of Being. I will need to find an inner sanctuary there–where the false solutions to my suffering can be dissolved and the true solutions can arise. I will need to spend time facing how things are in me each day, and leaning toward how they can be. And to do that I will need a safe community where I can practice the presence of God and share my honest struggles to live from that place.

In a time of civil war, where lines are drawn to divide us all and hatred is fueled toward all beings on the “other side,” the contemplative peacemaker in me will need to guide the uninitiated male in me. And that will not be possible unless the contemplative peacemaker practices taking a stand by taking his seat in circles of trust, creating safe sanctuaries where all people are welcome and all members need the practice of the presence of God to guide us into wise paths during the war.

The contemplative peacemaker in me must hold the uninitiated male in my heart, sending him lovingkindness, soothing his suffering by understanding his fears and bringing him into the Presence of a Power Greater than his fears and suffering. So every day I must take my seat in that Presence, or I do not stand a chance in a time of civil war.

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How can I live that commitment? Only with your help, which means there is a seat open for you in the circle. I must align myself with other contemplative peacemakers. We will need to take our seat together, as often as we can, for the civil war has come.

Question: During a civil (or not so civil) war, how do contemplatives take a stand?

Answer: Contemplatives take a stand by taking our seat.


About soulcare4u

I am the author of Monks in the World: Seeking God in a Frantic World, published by Wipf & Stock and available through Amazon.com; and of a blog on Wordpress.com, "A Contemplative Path." I serve as the founding spiritual director of The School for Contemplative Living (www.thescl.net), adjunct faculty of Loyola University, and as a pastoral counselor and spiritual director in private practice.
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