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

Peace Blogger Interview #6: Marty Friedrich

I don’t usually post these interviews so close to one another, but I am trying to catch up a backlog.  Plus, this gives folk all weekend to read it without me posting anything else. So here goes:

Today’s Christian Peace Blogger interview is with Marty Friedrich, a church administrator in Houston, Texas, USA.  Her blog, On the Homefront, was begun after her son was sent to Iraq as part of the U.S. Army and his emails to her in 2003 opened her eyes to the horrors of war. Marty’s blog is very political (and, in Texas, it very much swims UPSTREAM) and includes numerous pictures, videos, audio interviews, etc., giving it quite a hi-tech look.  She is dedicated firmly to the view that “peace is patriotic” and that one can love and support military members and veterans and still vigorously oppose particular wars and/or war and violence itself. Welcome to the CPB interview, Marty.

MLW-W:  Let’s start, as all these interviews have, by telling us something about yourself, personally. 

Marty: I have a bit of rebel in me. Well…maybe more than a little bit.  Left over from my “hippie” days in the late 60s early 70s. I am shy and reserved, but do not hesitate to speak my mind if I feel it appropriate. Presently, I am obsessed with exposing the lies that led us into
Iraq and doing all I can to bring the troops home and take care of them when they get here.  

 MLW-W:  Tell us about your immediate family. 

Marty: I am married with 2 children: A married daughter (28); a son (33) who is now an Iraq War combat veteran. I am lucky to still have both my parents. My mom just turned 86 and my Dad turned 90 this past November.  He is a WWII combat veteran.

MLW-W: That’s quite a family. You’ve spoken of your son’s military service in Iraq and we’ll say more about that in a bit, but you haven’t spoken about your family’s reaction to your new-found activism.  Were they supportive or opposed? 

Marty: My family has not really reacted much at all.  I’ve always been left of center so I don’t think any of them are surprised at my recent activism.  My kids are very supportive and proud of me.  My husband doesn’t share my activism, but he isn’t opposed to me doing it. He can’t stand politics and sometimes becomes annoyed at my ranting.   My mom has always been against war but she was never an activist. She and my Dad (while on military leave) were married in 1942 and shortly thereafter my Dad went overseas and didn’t come home until 1945. It was a very stressful time for my mom. She does not like for my Dad to talk about “the war.”  She amuses me when Bush is on TV.  She becomes really agitated and calls him a “warmonger.” She can’t stand to look at him and can’t understand why anyone could like him. 

 My Dad doesn’t say too much, but I can tell he doesn’t have much respect for this administration and their policies.  I have no siblings; I am an only child. 

 My husband’s family are all extremely conservative.  I don’t talk politics, religion, or activism with them.                                                                                                 

MLW-W: I’m so glad that your peace activism hasn’t caused the family rifts that sometimes happen.  Switching topics, what do you do for a living?  When not working or blogging, what do you like to do? 

Marty: I have been a church administrator/secretary for the last 25 years. [Marty works at a different church than she attends.]  I enjoy spending time with my family, eating good food (not necessarily healthy), working out, and sitting in a comfy chair with a good book.  I am a member of Military Families Speak Out  and am presently helping to establish a Houston Chapter. I enjoy “short” vacations, which must include a museum or two and must not include an airplane.  I like to take the “scenic route” with the wheels firmly on the ground.  

MLW-W: We’ll return to your work in Military Families Speak Out and the “no airplaine” thing. First,tell us something about your faith. How long have you been a Christian? 

Marty: I can’t remember when I wasn’t a “Christian.”  My mother read the scriptures to me from the time I was in her womb . There is no defining moment that I can pinpoint and say “this is when I became a Christian.”  It has just always been a part of who I am. I have gone through periods of doubt and drought, however.

MLW-W:  Of what local congregation/parish are you a member? If your local church is part of a denomination, what is it?  

Marty: I am a member of a local United Methodist Church in the Houston area. [Because her peace activism is somewhat controversial in Texas, Marty prefers not to identify the particular United Methodist parish she calls home.]

MLW-W:  Were you raised United Methodist? Have you ever been part of a different Christian denomination or tradition? 

Marty: No. I was raised Southern Baptist and continued in that denomination until I became a United Methodist in 2003. The church that I had grown to love was in full “warrior” mode and the war drums beat loudly.  “Support the troops” meant “support the war and George Bush.” I wasn’t buying it.  Pride in America was overflowing.  I was drowning in it.  I made a hasty exit and have not looked back.

 MLW-W: How did you get into blogging?  

Marty: I came across the blog of a former pastor of mine and rather than rant and rave in the comments section of his blog, I decided to do him a favor and start my own blog. It has given me an outlet to speak my mind without fear.

MLW-W: Are there problems you see with blogging? 

Marty:  Yes, there are problems with blogging. For me at least.  It can be addicting.  I sometimes leave things undone to blog. It can be very time consuming.   

MLW-W: With all the news stories and multi-media parts to your blog, I imagine that it is even more time consuming than some of us other bloggers find it! J Switching gears, again, how do you relate your faith to issues of peacemaking? What sources of strength have you found? 

 Marty: “Love your enemies and blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God”…that pretty much says it all for me.  I find strength in the peace bloggers I’ve met on my journey. The UMC [United Methodist Church]  has been a place of rest in the midst of the storm.  I have found strength in the military families that I have met in person and online who are struggling along with me against war, yet have loved ones fighting in war.  The tension between the two can be overwhelming at times. It is a blessing to have someone who understands that tension. War brought us together, yet it is peace that we work together to achieve. 

 MLW-W: You are the daughter of a veteran and the mother of a veteran. Do you have  military experience, yourself?  

Marty: I’ve never been in the military, but come from a long line of those who have going back to American Revolution.

MLW-W: Wow. As a member of a family with a military tradition, myself, I know something of what that’s like.  The tensions between that heritage and a commitment to gospel nonviolence can be very strong.  Other than your son’s email messages, I am wondering just what experiences initiated you into the nonviolent tradition. 

Marty: I took a class “From Violence to Wholeness“- a ten part process in the spirituality and practice of active nonviolence in 2004.  I have tried to incorporate what I learned in my daily life. 

MLW-W: Is that the Franciscan course by that name? 

Marty: Yes, by Ken Butigan in collaboration with Patricia Bruno, O.P. [It is from] Pace e Bene Nonviolence Service . I learned about this class at church.  The woman who led the class was a nun and she came and spoke about the class during a morning worship service. I couldn’t wait to talk to her after the service.  While taking that class my son’s (first) tour in Iraq was extended for an additional 3 months . It was during the Al Sadr uprising. It was in that class that I began to heal and find the courage to speak out. Unfortunately, not long after this my pastor was appointed elswhere and the minister that took his place was obviously a Bush and war supporter. Everything about the church immediately changed. People that I had connected with left and started attending other churches.  It would take me two years to find another church.MLW-W: Okay, you may have already answered this, but do you consider yourself a pacifist?  

Marty: Yes, I would consider myself a pacifist.  The gospel is peace. It isn’t just “peace in your heart.” It’s more than that, much more. I’ve always known that and believed it but never really gave it a lot of thought.  It took my son’s involvement in the Iraq War and especially his letters from Baghdad, to cause me to take peace and peace activism more seriously. His letters were a wake-up call for me.  I began to see every aspect of my life differently, including my faith and what it meant to be a Christ-follower.

MLW-W: Wow.  What led you to join Christian Peace Bloggers?   

Marty: I wasn’t sure I would qualify for the Christian Peace Bloggers and hesitated to even join because of the nature of my blog.  Hopefully, I will learn to be a better peacemaker by participating. Thank you, Michael, for allowing me that opportunity.  

MLW-W:  Do you read any of the other blogs in the blog-ring? Which ones do you like and why?  Have you alerted any readers to your blog about these blogs (or specific posts on them) which you like? 

Marty: Since I joined the blog-ring I’ve not had an opportunity to read many of the other blogs.  My plan is to take the time to do that and will alert my readers to posts that I like.

MLW-W: Again, you have partly answered this, but, outside of blogging, do you participate in any other peace-related activities or organizations? If so, tell us about them. 

Marty: Military Families Speak Out  (everyone in this organization is against the Iraq War, but not everyone is a pacifist). We work to support the troops by ending the occupation of Iraq and to take care of them when they come home.  We also support reparations to
Iraq. [Nota bene for readers outside the U.S.: As in most nations, traditionally in the U.S. military personnel, veterans, and military families have been expected to keep any criticisms of a particular war or of government policies to themselves.  Cracks in this tradition began at least as early as the Vietnam War when many returning veterans began joining the peace movement, forming organizations such as Veterans for Peace and Vietnam Veterans Against the War.  But, perhaps because of instant email communication with loved ones, the U.S. and U.K.-led invasion and occupation of Iraq has, for the first-time, spawned vocal resistance from family members of active-duty military personnel. In addition to MFSO, with which Marty is affiliated, there is Gold Star Families for Peace, composed of family members who have lost loved ones to the war and whose most famous member is Cindy Sheehan, and the Aztec Warrior Project, founded by Gold Star member Fernando Suarez del Solar in memory of his late son, Jesus Alberto Suarez del Solar Navarro, to conduct counter-recruitment among Latinos and African-Americans who are the special targets of U.S. military recruiters.]

Freeway Bloggers. We stand on overpass bridges during rush hour traffic with signs such as “Stop the Killing,” “Bring ‘em Home,” “Wage Peace.”

Various local peace events and marches.

MLW-W Does your church take peace issues seriously? Give us some examples, if “yes.” If “no,” what could you do to raise awareness about this in your local congregation? 

Marty: Yes they do. There are several peace activists in my congregation.  I learn of ways to work for peace and justice through the United Methodist Women, the General Board of Church and Society, and the Peace with Justice Ministry of the UMC.

  MLW-W:  Have you travelled outside your home nation?

Marty: No I have not traveled outside the U.S. That would require me to board an airplane.

MLW-W: Hmm. If you could travel by car or boat to another country (Canada, Mexico, etc.), would you be open to this?  Say, a short-term mission experience or a church-based peace conference in which you represented your congregation? 

Marty: It would depend on the distance and the time of year. Plus I would not drive that far alone.

 MLW-W: Okay. Now, as a reader of your blog, I know this next question sounds crazy. But, for the benefit of those new to you, how well do you stay informed of global events? 

Marty: I am an internet news junkie.  I try to stay aware of what is happening all over the globe.

MLW-W: What internet news sources do you find helpful and trustworthy? 

Marty: Common Dreams, Raw StoryInformation Clearing House, Tom Paine, Think Progress, Crooks and Liars, Anti-War.com, Democracy Now, Liberty TV, Free Speech TV, Link TVPacifica Radio ….to name a few. 

MLW-W:  Is there anything else you’d like to share with us? Marty: Thank you Michael for letting me be a part. 

MLW-W: Marty, you are more than welcome. You add much to Christian Peace Bloggers. Folks, be sure to check out On the Homefront.  And, if you have family or friends who believe they cannot “support the troops” without supporting war, send them to Marty’s blog.

April 13, 2007 Posted by | blog-ring, human rights., peace, politics, sexism | Comments Off on Peace Blogger Interview #6: Marty Friedrich

New Baptist Covenant

nr-goatley-covenant.jpgFor readers who are fellow Baptists, mark your calendars: 30 January-1 February 2008 in Atlanta, there will be a major conference of Baptists from many different North American Baptist denominations–focused on increased cooperation in both evangelism and work for social justice, called the New Baptist Covenant.  [Name dropping: That’s Dr. David Goatley at the podium. I went to seminary and grad school with him and now he is Sec.-Treasurer of the Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Society.  Others visible in that picture include former U.S. presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton. I have met the former twice. End of name dropping. ]

The largest Baptist denomination in the world, the Southern Baptist Convention, has refused to have anything to do with the event, accusing planners of being political tools of the Democratic Party. This charge seems to stem from the roles that former U.S. presidents Jimmy Carter and Bill Clinton (both Baptists) played in getting this movement off the ground. Some SBC leaders have even suggested that, since the North Carolina primary for the 2008 presidential election is close in time to this conference, the conference is just a smokescreen to try to rally votes for Democratic presidential candidates, especially Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton (D-NY).   This charge, however, is absurd on it’s face. Atlanta is in GEORGIA, not North Carolina.  None of the Democratic presidential candidates this time are Baptist:  Sen. Clinton is United Methodist and won’t be there; Sen. Barack Obama (D-IL) is a member of the United Church of Christ; Former Sen. John Edwards, though raised Southern Baptist, has long been a United Methodist; Rep. Dennis J. Kucinich (D-OH) is Roman Catholic, as are Sen. Joseph Biden (D-DL), Sen. Chris Dodd (D-CT), Former Sen. Mike Gravel (D-AK) and Gov. Bill Richardson (D-NM).  The only POSSIBLE Democratic candidate for president in ’08 who is Baptist is former Vice President Al Gore (D-TN)–and he has not announced his candidacy and has not expressed any desire to come to this conference.  Even former Pres. Clinton’s presence at this conference is not assured.  The SBC charges are bizarre and without merit.

Keynote speakers for this New Baptist Covenant celebration include Pres. Carter, famed journalist Bill Moyers, and Marian Wright Edelman, founder and head of the Children’s Defense Fund.  Tentative themes for four (4) plenary sessions include, “Celebration of a New Baptist Covenant,” “Unity in Bringing Good News to the Poor,” “Unity in Respecting Religious Diversity,” “Unity in Seeking Peace with Justice,” and “Unity in Welcoming the Stranger and Healing the Broken Hearted.” The focus on unity is welcome for a tradition, such as Baptists, that has a history of “multiplying by dividing” into numerous argumentative groups.  The New Baptist Covenant movement is not an attempt at merging our various denominations and conventions, but at working together across boundaries of race, ethnicity, national borders, and even theology in the mutual tasks of evangelism, defence of religious liberty and church/state separation, and promotion of social justice and peace.  Another purpose of this cooperative effort is to counter the negative image that many in the U.S. and around the world have of Baptists–an image drawn mostly from the SBC and independent fundamentalist Baptists.

Among the Baptist organizations that have already agreed to be represented are: The American Baptist Churches, USA; Baptist Center for Ethics; Baptist Convention of Ontario and Quebec; Baptist General Convention of Missouri; Baptist General Convention of Texas; Baptist General Association of Virginia; Baptist History and Heritage Society; Baptist Joint Committee for Religious Liberty; Baptist Union of Western Canada; Baptist World Alliance; Baylor University; Buckner Children and Family Services; Canadian Baptist Ministries; Canadian Conference of Southern Baptist Churches (apparently wiser and less schismatic than their U.S. cousins); Convention of Atlantic Baptist Churches; Cooperative Baptist Fellowship; General Association of General Baptists; Lott Carey Baptist Foreign Mission Society (main foreign mission agency for many African American Baptists); Mainstream Baptists Network; Mercer University; National Baptist Convention of America, Inc.; National Baptist Convention, USA, Inc.; National Missionary Baptist Convention of America; North American Baptist Conference, USA & Canada; North American Baptist Fellowship (regional body of the Baptist World Alliance); Progressive National Baptist Convention; Texas Baptists Committed.  Baptist media organizations that have been confirmed for publishing the event so far include:  Associated Baptist Press, Baptist Standard (of Texas), Ethics Daily (online journal of the Baptist Center for Ethics), and National Baptist Voice.

I’ve notice a few groups that have, so far, been overlooked whom I hope will be represented at this historic celebration. They include my denomination, the Alliance of Baptists (small, but a member of the National Council of Churches), the Seventh Day Baptist Conference, the Baptist Peace Fellowship of North America, the Association of Welcoming and Affirming Baptists (AWAB).  The potential of this event and movement is great and I commend the efforts of former presidents Clinton and Carter in facilitating this potential to heal longstanding divisions in this part of the Body of Christ.

April 13, 2007 Posted by | Baptists | 1 Comment