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Recursion Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-17-07 01:20 AM
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A pilgrim's progress: blogging CPWI
I have issues with religion, and with the idea that "God" exists outside of peoples belief in him. And if He actually does I think He's a right bastard and have a thing or two to say to Him if we ever meet. So, I don't go to church much, or pray, because it's just not something I think of doing.

My mother is in seminary getting her MDiv. Her ministry always involves food: a soup kitchen; feeding volunteers; feeding parishoners. I once asked her why and she showed me the passage in Luke where Jesus after his arrest says to Peter, "feed my sheep". I know she's much holier than me because she read that and saw it really meant feed, as in give food, while I assumed it was a metaphor.

She drove down from Boston to go to the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq in Washington today (well, yesterday now). She asked if I would mind going with her; I said I would not. When I got off work at 5 she and I shoved our way onto the packed Red Line to Tenleytown. It was raining, so she had bought me a poncho at the CVS. She also brought me a hot sandwich from Cosi.

Feed my sheep.

When we got on the train it was raining softly; when we got off it was sleeting. Sleeting hard. Her glasses fogged up completely and iced over, so she held on to the back of my poncho and we walked a mile over icy sidewalks, not talking because we couldn't hear each other. She kept asking if I could see the cathedral, and even though I couldn't I said I could because I knew where it was behind the clouds.

My mother and I have a tense relationship. There was the divorce, and some mistakes I made in my 20's. She got re-married a few years ago, right before I got shipped to Iraq. She has a favorite bible verse, John 1:16. When she got married I was dead broke (again, mistakes in my 20's) so I couldn't get her a wedding present. Instead, I wrote the last piece of music I have yet written, and the first piece of sacred music I ever wrote: a motet on John 1:16

From His fullness, we have received grace upon grace.

She cried when I gave her the sheet music. The last time I was at her house I saw it framed on the mantle.

We got to the National Cathedral just as they were letting people in. I thought the weather would drive people off: instead, the largest cathedral in North America was at capacity, and the crowd overflowed into St. Alban's church next door, plus a crowd outside (in the sleet), plus the thousand or so at New York Avenue Presbyterian preparing for nonviolent civil disobedience at the White House. The weather, as I said, was awful. My mother had driven down with one of her fellow students, a Catholic monk of some order or another. I asked him what he thought about the weather. He said, "The heavens are crying too. And God trusts us enough to make this witness difficult."

So here I am, a lapsed Presbyterian with his soon-to-be-ordained United Church of Christ mother sitting in an Episcopal cathedral for a Methodist service surrounded by two quakers, a Catholic monk, a jew, and a muslim all praying for peace.

Kyrie eleison

Susan Landis of the Mennonite church gave the opening prayer, and asked us to love one another and all in the world. Then Logan Laturi, an Iraq veteran and peacemaker read from the reflections of Joshua Casteel, a soldier in Iraq. Joshua wrote, "I had just pointed a loaded weapon at 8-year-old children. How can I speak of faith when I only travel behind a loaded rifle?"

Jim Winkler of the Methodist church read an excerpt from a young Iraqi's diary. "Their parents sent them off to their exams with prayers that they would pass. How could they know their children would never come home again?"

Luma Khudher, a Dominican sister from Iraq, read from an Iraqi woman's diary. "I saw a woman, frantic with grief, diving towards the morgue when she recognized her son's body. Her brothers held her back, held her back from the press of the crowd. She wailed like nothing I had heard before."

Celeste Zappala, a Gold Star mother, gave the first witness. She spoke about her son, how she never knew anyone who did not call him their best friend.

I was in Iraq 4 years ago. 4 years. It seems impossible. I can't believe that. 4 years. Two of my friends died while I was there, two more since. I had tried not to think about them. But when she started talking about her son it was like a key was turned. I cried. I bawled. Not the dignified kind of crying you expect in church: tears and snot and phlegm everywhere, the salt from my tears melting the ice on my poncho. My mother put her hand on my shoulder and handed me a tissue.

Give me that stranger, that I may bury Him in a tomb

Robert Edgar of the National Council of Churches read the Scourging of Christ from the Gospel of Matthew.

Phil Jones of the Church of the Brethren read an account of an Abu Ghraib detainee.

Raphael Warnock of the Ebenezer Baptist church gave the second witness. He said "I know Congress is not the answer because they are asking the wrong question. They ask 'how can we not lose in Iraq?'. The danger is not that America will lose this war. The danger is that America will lose her soul."

The crowd yelled "Amen". I tried, but I choked on it.

Were you there when they crucified my Lord?

Marshall Dunn of the Disciples of Christ lead from Paul's first letter to the Thessalonians. Carol Rose of the Christian Peacemaker Team read from the letters of Sheila Provencher, a Christian Peacemaker Team member in Iraq. She said, "I understand the apathy of Americans back home. So many days, I just want to sleep. I just want all the violence and counterviolence and greed and fear and hate to go away, even if the rest does too. I understand." I cried again.

Bernice Powell Jackson of the United Church of Christ gave the third witness. She asked how we can expect war to end when we still have disdain and superiority in our own hearts. She reminded us that war is failure; war is the absence of hope. I tried again to say "amen"; again I choked.

Rick Ufford-Chase of the Presbyterian church (nominally, at least, my spiritual home) gave the call to offering. All the money collected was going to rebuild Iraq. "Until we take responsibility for our complicity and our part in this, there can be no moving on. But understand; to the penitent soul God's forgiveness is infinite." Tears, snot, and phlegm again.

Jim Wallis of Sojourners gave the call to action. I've lost most of what he said, I was so overwhelmed at this point. But I remember one part. He said, "there is a blasphemy, frankly, in this war. America is not the light and hope of the world. The light and hope of the world is God's love." I choked again. I stuttered. Every muscle I had fought against it, but somewhere, deeper within me than I knew existed, a whisper croaked it's way out:


The processional began. All the denominational leaders walked down the aisle and began to form the crowd to march outside as we sang.

We are marching in the light of God
We are marching in the peace of God
We are marching in the love of God

They handed out battery-powered fake candles, and had buses for those unable to walk the 4 miles to the White House. My mother and I had both agreed to break off from the march and head to the metro station. Emmaus-like, we both kept walking, and waiting for the other to break off, and neither of us did. We kept singing with the people around us.

Oh when the saints go marching in
Oh when the saints go marching in
Lord, I want to be in that number
When the saints go marching in

It was freezing. 2 days ago it was 70 degrees; it was 24 by the thermometer at Dupont Circle. There was a teenage girl in the crowd next to us telling her mother how hungry she was. My mother reached under her poncho and pulled out some triskets and cheese for her. I cried again.

Feed my sheep

I turned around when we left the circle. My mother and I had migrated to the head of the crowd. We could see 100 yards behind us the crucifix held high by some motivated guy who didn't mind frostbite on his hands. Farther back, we could hear the impromptu drumline that had broken out to cheer the marchers.

We could not see, even with the fake candles, the end of the procession. It was lost in the sleet, several hundred yards and several thousand people behind us. We were still singing.

We shall overcome
We shall overcome
We shall overcome someday
Deep in my heart I do believe
We shall overcome someday

By the time we got to the white house it was nearly midnight. My mother had to get up early to drive back to Boston so we eventually broke away from the crowd and walked together silently for a moment. She gave me the rest of her triskets and went to her hotel; I headed back to my apartment. We hugged before we parted and I said I think I could try to go to church Sunday. She said that she trusted me to do what I felt was right for me, whatever that was.

Snot and phlegm again, but the triskets and a mother's trust helped.

From His fullness we have received grace upon grace.

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proud2BlibKansan Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-17-07 01:32 AM
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1. K & R
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Breeze54 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-17-07 01:44 AM
Response to Original message
2. You brought tears to my eyes....
Just beautiful.

Thank you for going, with your Mom, on such a miserable night, to stop a miserable war...

"I was in Iraq 4 years ago. 4 years. It seems impossible. I can't believe that."
~~ dmesg ~~

I can't believe it's been four years either. :cry:


:kick: & Recommended

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ConsAreLiars Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-17-07 02:23 AM
Response to Original message
3. Extraordinary and eloquent truthtelling. Going to the core of things.
Send this to BuzzFlash and Truthout as a guest editorial, and any others you can think of. Send it to the NY Times (low odds) and Mother Jones (better). It needs to be read by everyone.
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Breeze54 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-17-07 02:50 AM
Response to Original message
4. Wish I could recommend again.
But instead I'll give it a :kick: and hope for others to recommend!

This needs to get up on the front page!
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sutz12 Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-17-07 03:09 AM
Response to Original message
5. K & R
Edited on Sat Mar-17-07 03:10 AM by sutz12

Great read, and thanks for sharing.
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unhappycamper Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Sat Mar-17-07 08:04 AM
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6. May you find Peace, Brother.
Welcome home.
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