I have been tabling at the Christian Peacemaker Teams booth at Cornerstone. The guy that heads it up is pretty much the most humble dude I’ve met, and I really like the whole atmosphere at the festival. Inevitably, there are folks who get really riled up about what CPT does and what it “stands for.” I got into a few conversations that asked what political statement CPT is making and do I agree with it (?). I have realized now more than ever that every single act we perform is inherently political, though it may not be explicit at all. When CPT goes into Palestine, for example, are we criticizing Israeli practices and condoning terrorism? Anyway, I really saw a lot of jumping to conclusions, and maybe that is a result of our cultural conditioning, I don’t know.
One thing that really stuck with me was this one guy from another booth who seemed really interested, and sympathetic to CPT, but whose words somehow belied his mood. What he said that stuck with me was something like “Yeah, this work is great, we need it, but I know guys that are in Iraq now, and they’re good guys.” I thought I heard a bit of an emphasis on “good guys,” but I could be wrong. Regardless, though, what is the subtle implication behind that statement? Is CPT in some implicit manner condemning US service members? Should we really be jumping that quickly and broadly to that conclusion? I don’t know, maybe I have been in this kind of conversation before, perhaps too often, and now I am the one jumping to conclusions.
It would be easier to believe that if it weren’t for the 4 or 5 other discussions I got into where people explicitly doubted that one could support CPT (or similar work) without indicting the military. And we indicted only the US military, too boot; somehow that work does not also indict (if it indeed does in the first place), say, the IDF, the Columbian paramilitary forces, or Saddam Hussein… Is that making any sense? I suppose, where I’m coming from is that my own theology and work has never been intended as an indictment on the military (as I myself was a member, and would be indicting myself), though IF it can be construed that way, it would only be legitimate if that work was seen as indicting violence itself, across the board.
Anyway, it wasn’t all bad. I got to meet a few service members who were interested in our work and whom I had some amazing conversations with about nonviolence and service to our country. They all seemed pretty set at ease when I described how I felt one could simultaneously love ones nation and Jesus, though that would call for a clear subordination of allegiances, and that ultimately, one must know where their non-negotiables are, like killing other human beings made in the image of God. With any luck, I will be hearing from a few of them over the next couple of days. In all, I’d say it was a great time and I had the opportunity to get a few folks to think much more seriously about nonsense of violence and the sense in nonviolence.