- by Rev. Andy Oliver -
The other night I listened to the president tell us a story about how the United States has helped to maintain world security over the last 70 years... He asked "What kind of world would we live in if the United States of America sees a dictator brazenly violate international law with poison gas and we choose to look the other way?"
We would live in 1988 when we looked the other way after knowingly giving Saddam Hussein intelligence to gas thousands of Iranians and later his own people.
In the last 70 years, we have used chemical weapons, killing many more civilians than Syria, in places like Vietnam, Korea, Japan, Iraq, and St. Louis.
The reason not to strike Syria should have nothing to do with whether it is popular or not... The reason not to strike should be because killing 1,000 more people is just as much a crime against humanity as Syria's usage of nerve gas. War has not and never will solve wars. Obama reminded us just a few weeks ago of the words of MLK: Hate cannot drive out hate. Only love can do that.
I am a pacifist for the abolition of war. Pacifism is not about sitting back and doing nothing. It is actively, creatively, engaging the world by telling truthful stories of a reality in which war can no longer be imagined as a possible alternative.
Please stop repeating the story that
our wars keep us safe,
our killing is justified,
our weapons are humane,
Please stop repeating it because it isn't true. Stop spreading the story that rule based war can be just, whether from presidential podiums, pulpits, or personal platitudes.
History has taught us that injustice is a powerful storyteller. It has told stories that fooled people of faith to follow Hitler, convinced whites to see blacks as inferior, and warped our moralities to make us believe discrimination was the loving thing to do.
But history has also showed us through prophets like Jesus, Gandhi, Day, King, and Mandela that there is an even stronger storyteller. Her name is justice. That beloved community that is described in her pages will never be achieved with drones, targeted military strikes, or regime change. Beloved community is achieved by truthful storytellers on the ground. It is a story that has to be told again and again in the face of injustice's version of reality. Oftentimes, these faithful storytellers are the first to fall victim to the very violence and discrimination their stories speak out against. But the stories live on.
I came to be a pacifist later in life. I had to first unlearn the many stories told to me about war'snecessity. This country once believed stories that told them slavery was necessary, but now new stories have shaped our minds to allow us imagine a world in which the enslavement of another is not an alternative. Even still, we are still trying to unlearn those old stories. This is why I believe the abolishment of war is possible. We need new stories. This is how I believe the arc of the moral universe bends... stories keep speaking, loving, and bending it toward justice.
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Rev. Andy Oliver serves Reconciling Ministries Network as director of communications. He has two children: Liam, 4 and Evan, 2. Before joining RMN, he served as a United Methodist pastor in the Florida Conference. Andy received his B.S. in Public Relations from The University of Florida and his M.Div. from Duke Divinity School. Connect with him on social media at www.andyoliver.me.