Wednesday, 14 March 2012

CO experience foreign to my generation

Can historical remembering bring about a new witness to peace?

I think so. But it has to move us forward in our witness as historic peace churches. Unfortunately, I think we'd rather relive the same old story.

As a twenty-something born and raised in Canada, I have absolutely no experience of what it means to be faced with the decision to engage in warfare.

To be honest, I have hard time imagining that ever happening in my lifetime (though I suppose my forebears before me must have thought the same).

So reflecting on past Conscientious Objectors' experience does little to motivate me to a life of peace witness today. And I'm not alone.

One young adult put it this way, in the Brethren in Christ publication Shalom:
“I suspect that most young people are really not interested in talking about what happened decades ago in a world we no longer inhabit…. [They] are a little disgusted with boomer-ism. Almost everything the ‘hippie generation’ tried to do has been unsatisfying, and brought on a world that younger people will have to live in and clean up. So, hearing stories about being a C.O. [conscientious objector] is not productive.”
To be sure, the 1812 CO experience goes well beyond the hippie generation, yet it is one event in a long history of peace churches saying NO to war, yet failing to provide a captivating YES alternative.

The most popular stories told and retold in peace church mythology are those who refused to give up their right to refrain from warfare. These are inspiring stories of courage, no doubt. I look forward to reading more on this blog.

But where are the stories of peacemakers courageously creating peace?

With little likelihood of being asked to serve in war today, I need stories that provide me a captivating YES for why we choose peace over violence. Whether abstaining from war is morally superior isn't enough. I also need to see what can happen when people band together in the way of peace. You know, glimpses of the peaceful kingdom of God.

Without them, our critics are right. We pacifists reap the benefits of those who fight for freedom on our behalf, while celebrating the heroes of bygone eras.