The Common Good

Marching Orders

Sojomail - March 22, 2007


"The status of being a dissident unites dissidents on either side."

- Prof. Douglas Laycock of the University of Michigan Law School, commenting on the Supreme Court case of Joseph Frederick, a high school student suspended for displaying a banner reading "Bong Hits 4 Jesus." Briefs supporting Frederick have come not only from the American Civil Liberties Union and the National Coalition Against Censorship, but also from a host of conservative religious legal groups such as the American Center for Law and Justice (founded by the Rev. Pat Robertson), the Christian Legal Society, the Alliance Defense Fund, the Rutherford Institute, and Liberty Legal Institute. (Source: The New York Times )

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Marching Orders

Below is the full text of my message at the Washington National Cathedral service of the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq, where I, along with many other religious leaders, spoke to a capacity crowd before marching to the White House:

Four years ago today, my son Jack was born – two days before the war began. I always know how long this awful war has gone on.

The war in Iraq is personal for me. It’s personal for you too, or you wouldn’t be here tonight.

It’s personal for the families and loved ones of the more than 3,200 American soldiers who have lost the precious gift of life. The stories I hear every day on the radio and TV break my heart. They are so young to die, and it is so unnecessary. When I look at my son and celebrate his birthday, I think of all the children whose fathers or mothers won’t be coming back from the war to celebrate theirs.

It’s personal for the tens of thousands of service men and women who have lost their limbs or their mental and emotional health, and who now feel abandoned and mistreated.

It’s personal for all the Iraqis who have lost their loved ones, as many as hundreds of thousands. What would it be like to wait in line at morgues to check dead bodies, desperately hoping that you don’t recognize someone you love? I can only imagine. And when I look at my son, I think of all the Iraqi children who will never celebrate another birthday.

This isn’t just political; it’s personal for millions of us now. And for all of us here tonight, the war in Iraq is actually more than personal – it has become a matter of faith.

By our deepest convictions about Christian standards and teaching, the war in Iraq was not just a well-intended mistake or only mismanaged. This war, from a Christian point of view, is morally wrong – and was from the very start. It cannot be justified with either the teaching of Jesus Christ or the criteria of St. Augustine’s just war. It simply doesn’t pass either test, and did not from its beginning. This war is not just an offense against the young Americans who have made the ultimate sacrifice or the Iraqis who have paid such a horrible price. This war is not only an offense to the poor at home and around the world who have paid the price of misdirected resources and priorities – this war is also an offense against God.

And so we are here tonight, very simply and resolutely, to begin to end the war in Iraq – not by anger, though we are angry; not just by politics, though it will take political courage; but by faith, because we are people of faith.

This service and procession are not just another political protest, but an act of faith, an act of prayer, an act of non-violent witness. Politics led us into this war, and politics is unlikely to save us by itself. The American people have voted against the war in Iraq, but political proposals keep failing one after the other.

I believe it will take faith to end this war. It will take prayer to end it. It will take a mobilization of the faith community to end it – to change the political climate, to change the wind. It will take a revolution of love to end it, because this endless war in Iraq is based ultimately on fear, and Jesus says that only perfect love will cast out fear.

So tonight we say, as people of faith, as followers of Jesus, that the deep fear that has paralyzed the conscience of this nation, which has caused us to become the kind of people that we are not called to be, that has allowed us to tolerate violations of our most basic values, and that has perpetuated an endless cycle of violence and counter-violence must be exorcised as the demon it is – this fear must be cast out!

And to cast out that fear, we must act in faith, in prayer, in love, and in hope – so we might help to heal the fears that keep this war going. Tonight we march not in belligerence, or to attack individuals (even those leaders directly responsible for the war), or to use human suffering for partisan political purposes. Rather, we process to the White House tonight as an act of faith, believing that only faith can save us now.

Ironically, this war has often been cloaked in the name and symbols of our faith, confused American imperial designs with God’s purposes, and tragically discredited Christian faith around the world, having so tied it to flawed American behavior and agendas. Millions of people around the world sadly believe this is a Christian war. So as people of faith, let us say tonight to our brothers and sisters around the world, and as clearly as we can – America is not the hope of the earth and the light of the world, Jesus Christ is! And it is his way that we follow, and not the flawed path of our nation’s leaders who prosecute this war. As an evangelical Christian, I must say that the war in Iraq has hindered the cause of Christ and, in this season of Lent, we must repent of this war!

So let us march tonight, believing that faith is stronger than fear;

Let us march tonight, believing that hope is stronger than hate;

Let us march tonight, believing that perfect love can cast out both hate and fear.

And let us march tonight, believing that the peace of Christ is stronger than the ways of war;

Let us march tonight, to say to a nation still captive to fear but weary of war, "May the peace of Christ be with you!"

Let’s march tonight, as Dr. Martin Luther King told us in another magnificent house of worship 40 years ago this spring, to "rededicate ourselves to the long and bitter-but beautiful-struggle for a new world."

And then let us return to our homes from the 48 states represented here tonight and generate a flood of public pressure that can wash away the blind intransigence of our White House and the cautious procrastination of our divided Congress. Your letters, phone calls, lobby visits, and actions at home will put a megaphone behind the sound of your feet today.

And all of this must be wrapped in the power of prayer. Because we believe that God can still work miracles in and through our prayers – and that prayer followed by action can turn valleys of despair into mountains of hope. God has acted before in history and we believe that God will act again through us. Tonight we leave this Cathedral humbly hoping to be God’s instruments of peace and the earthly agents of the kingdom of God.

It sometimes appears that the light of peace has almost gone out in America, but tonight we re-light the candle and take the light of peace to the White House!

Tonight, by faith, we begin to end the war in Iraq!

The peace of Christ be with you!

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+ Dowload audio of the speech (mp3)

+ Watch video of the entire service


+ See what's new on the blog of Jim Wallis and friends

Bernice Powell Jackson: Hope Does Not Disappoint Us
Hope, for Christians, is anchored in the understanding that with God all things are possible. Hope is that thing that allowed my slave forebears to know, deep down in their souls, despite all that the world told them, despite all that the world did to them, that one day they, or their children, or their children’s children, would be free. Because this is God’s world.

Celeste Zappala: A Mother's Cry for Peace
Good evening, brothers and sisters in Christ. I am Celeste Zappala, of the First United Methodist Church of Germantown in Philadelphia, of Military Families Speak Out, and sadly, of Gold Star Families Speak Out, because I am the mother of a fallen soldier. My son, Sgt. Sherwood Baker, was killed in Baghdad on April 26, 2004. I am here tonight as a witness to the true cost of this war, and I am joined this night by others who have lost their sons to the betrayal and madness that is the war in Iraq.

Jeff Carr: Iraq Veterans Memorial
While we are against the war, we certainly recognize and honor the sacrifice and suffering of so many families who have lost a loved one in this war. I don’t know about you, but sometimes the news coverage and the number of lives lost (more than 3,200 American soldiers, and an estimated 500,000 Iraqi citizens or more) can be a bit mind-numbing. It’s easy to just gloss over those numbers and forget that every one of those lives had a story, a history, something that made them a unique individual created in the image of God. This video is a good reminder of that fact, and I hope will sensitize you, as it did me, to the realities of war.

Randall Balmer: Moral Myopia on the Right
This is not the first time that leaders of the Religious Right have tried to derail evangelical interest in environmental matters. In October 1999, meeting (ironically) in the bucolic hills of northwestern Connecticut, several of these same signatories produced a document called the Cornwall Declaration, a putative statement of concern for the environment. The Cornwall Declaration opens with a pious affirmation of "shared reverence for God and His creation," but a closer reading reveals that the statement is really a brief for corporate interests. Let’s trust market forces to determine our posture toward the environment, the Declaration argues, because public policy "can dangerously delay or reverse" economic development.

Duane Shank: More Than 200 Arrested in Christian Peace Witness
With much hard work and prayer - and despite frigid temperatures with rain and sleet - the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq was a moving and inspiring event. More than 3,000 people gathered at the Washington National Cathedral and then walked in a candlelight procession nearly four miles to Lafayette Park across from the White House, where more than 500 additional people (who had watched the service in an overflow location at the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church) joined them. While the main group of people continued walking around the White House with candles, more than 200 crossed Pennsylvania Avenue to pray on the sidewalk and were arrested.


Photos of Christian Peace Witness Now Available

Photos of last week's Christian Peace Witness for Iraq are now available online. Whether or not you were able to attend, you can experience the event by browsing our online galleries. You can also order prints, and a portion of the proceeds will go to support the mission of Sojourners/Call to Renewal!

+ See the Christian Peace Witness photos


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Top Stories:

Iraq war protestors march in Washington
National Public Radio
Thousands of Christians opposed to the war in Iraq gathered at the National Cathedral in Washington, D.C., Friday night to pray and protest U.S. involvement in the Middle Eastern country. After an evening prayer service, the protesters marched to the White House. More than 200 were arrested for civil disobedience.

Thousands of Christians hold anti-war service in D.C.
Associated Press
Thousands of Christians prayed for peace at an anti-war service Friday night at the Washington National Cathedral, kicking off a weekend of protests around the country to mark the fourth anniversary of the war in Iraq. "This war, from a Christian point of view, is morally wrong - and was from the beginning," the Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners/Call to Renewal, one of the event's sponsors, said toward the end of the service to cheers and applause. "This war is ... an offense against God."

Rousing, emotional start to war protests
The Washington Post
The protesters were part of a larger group that had assembled at the Washington National Cathedral for a service on the fourth anniversary of the start of the war. From the service, demonstrators marched through the wind, cold and dampness to the White House.

Peace vigils mark night before protest
Cox News Service
On the eve of a massive antiwar march on the Pentagon, about 3,500 faithful came to pray at the Washington National Cathedral and then carry candles to the White House.

In March, protestors recall war anniversaries
The New York Times
And in Washington on Friday night a coalition of liberal Christian groups, including Sojourners/Call to Renewal, led several thousand people in a march that began with a service at the National Cathedral. More than 200 participants were arrested praying in front of the White House, the police said.

Christian worship, march in protest of Iraq war
Religion News Service
About 3,000 Christians gathered at the Washington National Cathedral Friday (March 16) before marching to the White House to protest the war in Iraq. "This kind of a Christian witness was long overdue," said the Rev. Jim Wallis, founder of Sojourners/Call to Renewal, one of three dozen groups represented in the Christian Peace Witness for Iraq. "Just going to secular demonstrations wasn't enough for them. They wanted to express their faith on the Iraq war."

Massive protests mark Iraq war's 4th anniversary
Al Jazeera

Anti-war protestors arrested
United Press International

Over 3,000 Christians to state Iraq war protest at White House
Christian Post

Christians prepare for war protest
Austin American-Statesman

Local faithful to join D.C. anti-war rally
The Columbus Dispatch

"Sojourners in the news" articles are the most recent news clippings that mention Sojourners in any way - whether favorably or unfavorably. Though we provide the text on our site for your convenience, we do not necessarily endorse the views of these articles or their source publications.


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