Faith & Social Justice: In the spirit of Richard Overton and the 17th C. Levellers

Home From Peace Camp

Well, we’re home! My experiment in long-distance blogging was a partial success. The biggest problem was finding time to update! My daughters both said that “Peace Camp rocks!” (and this, by them, is a good thing) and, in addition to making friends from around the world, they learned strategies to address bullying at school without violence, learned more about the differences between “free trade” and fair trade (and made Fair Trade brownies and are now looking for Fair Trade logos on chocolate!), better recycling habits, and more. They both got to participate in liturgical dance during Friday’s a.m. worship and can’t wait for next year.

Of course, Miriam, about to turn 7, has so adopted Rabbi Lynne Gottlieb (whose Hebrew name is Miriam) as her new hero, that she no longer wants to be a Medical Doctor, but a rabbi and is asking how we can get her Hebrew lessons! (This has Rabbi Gottlieb very amused, btw.) When my oldest, Molly (about to turn 11), taunted her sister that she couldn’t be a rabbi because she’s not Jewish, Miriam’s reply was, “Well, I believe in God and the 10 Commandments. Jesus was Jewish and I love Jesus, so why am I not Jewish?” I dodged the question (but it reinforced my Baptist convictions against infant baptism and child evangelism!), told her sister to leave her alone, and said that one could learn Hebrew for many reasons. I, a Christian theologian, have certainly been influenced by many Jewish scholars, including Martin Buber, R. Abraham Joshua Heschel, Rabbi Michael Lerner (meeting him this peace camp was a real treat!), Rabbi Susannah Heschel, Marc Ellis, Rabbi Pinchas Lapide (whose work on the Jewish background to Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount is fantastic!), Rabbi Arthur Waskow of the Shalom Centre, and Rabbi Gottlieb, too, I assured Miriam. I’m not really worried that my youngest daughter will convert to Judaism as she gets older (always a possibility, I suppose–one of the risks of believing in liberty of conscience and not confusing education with rote indoctrination), because much of her fascination is their sharing a name and R. Lynne’s taking time to work with young children. I do wonder if Miriam meets a feminist Muslim peacemaker named Maryam if she’ll want to learn Arabic and announce a desire to become a Muslim cleric! ūüôā

I began every day at peace camp at 7 a.m. as part of the contemplation circle who practiced breathing meditation for 30 minutes. We are led by John Malcomsen (3rd year now) from Seattle FBC, who went to a Quaker high school and then has spent time in a Buddhist monastery and considers himself a “Baptist Buddhist.” I could never say that about myself since it sounds too syncretistic, but Buddhist meditation techniques did help me reclaim Christian mysticism and contemplative prayer several years ago during a personal “dark night of the soul.” I feel free in Christ to practice breathing meditation or walking meditation because these practices do not come with any commitment to Buddhist metaphysics, Zen or otherwise. Others in our group had contemplative practices drawn from Christian monastic practices (Catholic or Orthodox) or Quaker “listening prayer” forms of silent meditation, etc. I am, by nature, very activist and very academic. Contemplative practices help me to approach peace and justice activism from a center that (hopefully) is moving toward inner peace–avoiding the trap of hating enemies and becoming that which we hate. Even though only about 10 people (out of over 300 at peace camp) joined us each day, I think it was very helpful to me in tackling the long days of peace camp.

Tomorrow, I will tell about our morning theology discussions with Dr. Peter Paris, recently retired from Princeton Seminary, an African-Canadian and naturalized U.S. citizen and a brilliant ethicist. I also want to talk about the young leaders in the youth and young adults and some more of the fascinating people I met.

I know some people (including D.R.) are waiting for me to get back to my posts on liberty of conscience and cover some questions to which I have yet to get, but please be patient. And, if you aren’t interested in these posts, tell others who might be about them–it’s pretty discouraging to blog about a wide range of faith-based justice and peace concerns and to have comments almost exclusively only when I wrote about the religious liberty dimensions of the abortion debate!!


July 15, 2006 - Posted by | Baptists, peacemaking

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