About eighteen months ago, Chuck Fager of Quaker House (in Fayetteville, NC, next to Fort Bragg) issued this declaration of what he called "the Hundred-Year Lamb's War." ...
A QUAKER DECLARATION OF WAR
By Chuck Fager
** A presentation to the Illinois Yearly Meeting **
Friends, I want to ask you to consider joining me in a Declaration of War.
Not a shooting war; we have plenty of those, and thats part of the problem. Instead, I invite you to declare the Lambs War, the Hundred-Year Lambs War.
The Lambs War is an ancient Quaker term, referring to a struggle for peace and justice carried on both internally and out in the world. As Edward Burrough, one of the first Friends, put it in 1659, The Lamb hath called us to make war in righteousness for his names sake, against hell and death, and all the powers of darkness . . . .
This image comes out of the Book of Revelation, most pointedly from Chapter 17:14, following a listing of various apocalyptic beasts and grotesque creatures, representing evil kings and empires: These shall make war with the Lamb, and the Lamb shall overcome them: for he is Lord of lords, and King of kings: and they that are with him are called, and chosen, and faithful.
So thats the text, which some scholars believe was a key passage for those who founded and shaped the early Quaker movement. But why, for me, is the new call to a Hundred-Year Lambs War?
Consider the direction of our country and its role in the world. Those in power in Washington have set the US on a course to run the world, not for a year or two, but for a very long time. Indeed, the manifesto for this grandiose project came from a group calling itself the Project for a New American Century. Century. Not decade. Not generation.
That vision has now been codified by the White House in the National Security Strategy of the United States, an official document which makes it formal policy to maintain American world supremacy by force, eliminate all actual or potential rivals to US power, while remaking the world in our image, regardless of such niceties as the desires of the people, international law, or even the rules of war.
You probably know all this, but it bears repeating. Now, its not easy to figure what to call this drive. I think something like messianic hegemonism is the most precise; but thats a mouthful, and Ill just call it imperialism for short.
By whatever name, its a crackpot scheme, full of grave hazards for the world. Its also increasingly clear that its not compatible with either genuine democracy or civil liberties. So we have seen in the past months the unabashed construction of a thick wall of secrecy around formerly open corridors of power, while at the same time huge holes have been driven through what used to be the Bill of Rights.
Further, the enormous financial costs of this plan cannot be borne without deep damage to both our economy and our already inadequate social safety nets. That much is already obvious. And its not all: I predict that if this plan goes forward for many more years, the military draft will be back too. Right now, the top Pentagon and White House officials, most of them draft dodgers themselves, dont want this, and I believe they mean it.
But were already seeing that the far-flung frontiers of this new American empire cant be policed for very long without many more troops under arms than we now have. It just cant be done. A return to conscription would bring back a form of involuntary servitude which was once regarded, rightly, as one of the deepest government invasions of our personal liberties as free citizens.
Many of us hope that with the next election there could be a regime change in Washington, and a shift of direction. I share those hopes. But even in the best case, it seems clear to me that cleaning up the damage and rebuilding will be the work of many years. Besides, my own political hopes are tempered by bitter experience: in my lifetime more than one new presidency has begun with high hopes and ended in shattered dreams, done in by deception and betrayal. The Psalmist spoke wisely when he sang: Put not your trust in princes. (Ps.146:3)
You know all this too. And I think you know something else: that as hazardous and misguided as our regimes crusade is, there are other crusaders out there as well, people who think it would be a great stroke for the glory of God, to kill you, and me, and all our children, right now, even if it meant killing themselves in the process.
For the glory of God. Not for oil; not for political power; not for money. The glory of God. Since that terrible Tuesday morning which none of us will ever forget, Ive gotten to where I can more or less live with most of the memories; but this part of it, that all the mass killing was done for the glory of God, still leaves me shaken.
So let me be clear: just because people in the Pentagon and the White House are paranoid, doesnt mean there arent people who are out to get us; because some of them are, and theyre armed and dangerous.
The question that haunts me in the face of all this has probably been haunting you too, namely: What can we do about it?
Thats the question I want to address here, and I want to do so as one Quaker speaking to other Quakers, and perhaps some other like-minded folks. Why am I being so sectarian about this? Doesnt the threat of religious war and the American drive for empire threaten those outside our little circle of Friends?
Of course it does, and Im not ignoring the larger world. But my focus is on Friends because it is an article of my faith that the Religious Society of Friends has been gathered by God as a people to do a particular piece of work in the larger, mysterious divine plan for mending the world. And its by discerning our particular work and pursuing it faithfully that well make our best and most important contribution to the larger world. Our piece may not be the biggest, or the flashiest. Its not better than any other; but it is important, and above all it is OURS. It is our calling, and we dare not neglect it, or try to trade it in for somebody elses.
This piece of work we usually refer to as our Peace testimony. The phrase describes a current that runs like a deep river through our 350-year history. But this river of testimony is a wandering stream, with many twists and turns. Its not a self-defining witness; in worship and study and struggle, its our task to discern its direction and call for us in each new era in which we find ourselves.
A major part of this ongoing discernment, is the work of answering the question of what to do. My answer is that its time for us to declare war, the Hundred-Year Lambs War.
I say this as a Friend who for the past three years has been living in Fayetteville, NC, close by Fort Bragg, one of the larger and more important military bases.
As Director of Quaker House there, my job has put me up close and personal with the US war machine. And from that continuing experience, Ive come to some unexpected conclusions: I think that much of what Quakers need to know today, for peace witness in the New American Century, we can best learn from, of all unlikely groups, the U.S. military.
Thats right: believe it or not, I think the war machine has much to teach us about peacework, maybe even the most important things for our time. Let me explain why:
To begin with, lets acknowledge what most others in the world know, that the current U.S. war machine is one of the most superbly efficient destructive forces the world has ever seen. To be sure, many things about the military, especially as a human society, are deeply flawed, even self-defeating. But when it comes to its principal mission, which is blowing up things and killing people, it simply has no peer. Its not just big; its not just costly. Its also the best in its bloody business.
How did it get that way? What has made it so effective? There are many factors going into this performance; but I want to focus on three which, I believe, could also be applied nonviolently, to building an adequate Quaker peace witness.
1. The military thinks and plans for the long term, and with big picture strategies.
2. The military is careful to secure its base.
3. The military makes training a top and continuing priority, at all levels. And throughout, it respects what it calls the tooth to tail ratio.
Each of these characteristics could, I believe, be a major asset to Quaker peace witness. And in each of them, I also believe, the Society of Friends today falls far short of its potential, and what is called for by the situation we confront.
Lets start with the first of these lessons, taking the long view and thinking strategically. These are really two sides of the same coin: strategy is a way of looking ahead; and taking the long view incorporates the past into that process.
The importance of this two-sided process for Friends was brought home to me this spring, preparing for a week-long workshop on Lucretia Mott, the famous Quaker women's rights advocate and antislavery activist. During this study, I began to notice a striking pattern in her work. Lucretia worked for an end to legal slavery in the U.S. for fifty years. (I call her Lucretia because, after reading several hundred pages of her letters and lots of other material besides, it feels like were on a first-name basis.)
Fifty years working against chattel slavery - and she lived to see the end of that peculiar institution, though of course not the end of racism. And when Lucretia began this labor, Friends as a body had already been working to end slavery for the previous fifty years. Thats a hundred years of Quaker labor on this one issue.
Or take womens rights. Lucretia personally worked on this cause, not for fifty, but for sixty years - and she did not live to see its first major breakthrough, winning the right to vote. That took forty more years after her death in 1880. Theres another hundred-year project, which also remains unfinished.
Then we come to the issue of ending war. Lucretia worked on this too. And as a very optimistic person, she believed the world was making progress toward permanent peace in her day. But reading her sermons on peace now often makes my heart sink - because shes been gone for more than 120 years, and instead of progress, the world has unquestionably slid rapidly backwards on this life-or-death matter.
What does all this math add up to? Simply that the Quaker testimonies for an end to legal slavery, for peace and womens equality were not fads or pastimes for dilettantes. They were dead-serious, hundred year projectsand in the case of war, racism, and women's equality, a century was just for starters.
You might think, given this recurrent pattern, that Quakers would be used to taking a long view. But by and large I believe youd be mistaken, especially if you saw how the military does it. For instance, weve already seen that the military is thinking in terms of an American century. Theyre planning decades ahead, getting ready to stop even potential adversaries from challenging its supremacy. The plans may be madness and folly, but theyre making them.
But the long view for them also includes the past as well as the future. Each service has a corps of professional historians, and its a sure bet that some of them are already at work in Iraq, gathering data and interviews on the latest U.S. war. Theyll write thick books recounting and analyzing it in detail, comparing and contrasting it to other wars, ancient and modern.
This is a venerable tradition. Their big books are not widely read outside military circles, and maybe because of that they tend to be hard-hitting and candid. Their purpose is not propaganda, but to help the military learn what worked and what didnt, which leaders and units performed well or badly, and why or why not - all so they can do it better next time. There is even, at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, a "Center for Army Lessons Learned." Makes sense, doesnt it?
Now, how do Quakers compare in this area? My own unsystematic but ongoing research is not encouraging. Heres a typical case: in the summer of 2003 I gave a short quiz to a group of about 30 active Friends. I wrote three lists of names on the blackboard: one list was of some moderately notable American generals; the second was of some central figures in Quaker peace witness. Ill get to the third list in a minute.
The names on the first list, the generals, were familiar, at least vaguely, to many of us. This didnt surprise me; after all, the military has built or helped stock more than 300 military museums in this country, plus many more war memorials. When we moved to the list of Quaker names, almost nobody recognized any of them. One name on the list was Lewis Fry Richardson - the Quaker who invented the field of peace research; hes the Isaac Newton of that field. Nobody there had heard of him.
That we didnt know the Quaker names didnt surprise me either - Friends have been witnessing for peace in this country for more than 340 years. There are a handful of books about it. But how many Quaker peace memorials are there?
Almost none, unless you count the Mary Dyer statues. And the only peace museum in the U.S. that I know of, is in Chicago. I visited it once, thought it was wonderful, and wished there were more.
Think about that for a minute; 300 for war, 1 for peace, and none for Quaker peace work.
But why not? Theres plenty of Quaker material: in Pennsylvania, for instance, during what William Penn called his Holy Experiment, he and his successors managed to keep peace with the natives for seventy years, from 1680 to 1750, without an army. No other American colony had a record that came anywhere close. But is there a museum which illustrates and celebrates this Quaker peace landmark? Or any of the others down the centuries, of which there are many? Not a chance. How many of us even know about this?
So what do we Friends have instead of a sense of our history, or a long view of our future?
Thats where the third list in the blackboard quiz came in. It turned out all of us knew all the names on that list. Here are only three: Bob Edwards, Scott Simon, Susan Stamberg. In other words - and this is a demographic characteristic Ive verified lots of time with unprogrammed Quaker groups - instead of a common history, we have a common radio network; today were not Hicksite Quakers or Orthodox Quakers anymore; were the National Public Radio (NPR) Quakers.
Whats my knock on this? After all, I too used to listen to NPR, almost every day. Its simply this: when were more familiar with broadcast personalities than we are with our own heritage and its implications, then too many of us are caught up in a media culture that reinforces in us an atomized, moment-to-moment, ahistorical kind of consciousness which is the very antithesis of a long-term view and coherent strategizing.
Whats the result of being so embedded: in this media culture? Its not only that it purveys lots of misinformation and lies. It also dissipates our attention, helps scatter and diffuse our energy, and narrows our horizons.
Some of us may think were beyond that because we take in Talk of the Nation instead of Rush Limbaugh. (For readers unfamiliar with these names: Talk of the Nation is a prominent program on NPR, while Rush Limbaugh is the most well-known of the conservative radio talk show hosts; my research suggests few unprogrammed Friends listen to the latter, while many attend to the former.)
But my Friends, thats like thinking were not part of the petroleum economy because we drive our Volvos and Odysseys instead of Hummers. Who are we kidding? A preoccupation with the media, even the best, trains us to see an ever-changing parade of trees, while too often missing the forests, or the earth beneath them. And the American mass media, yes even NPR and PBS, are also extremely parochial: its almost all about us: America and Americans, the rest of the world is chronically presented in relation to us.
This learned self-centeredness is especially troubling in relation to war: Several million Congolese are killed in a decade-long civil war; but few Americans are among the casualties, and what do we know about it? The Liberian civil war has gone on for years; but a few summers ago it was on the screen, because the US embassy was shelled. Colombia, Chechnya, and many other equally horrendous wars drag on, and by and large we hardly notice.
Is this an exaggerated view of the overall state of American Quaker consciousness? Maybe. But another poll I frequently take among Friends is to ask how many in a group have been to a meeting or a protest about Iraq in the past year, and consistently almost every hand goes up. Then I ask whos been to a similar meeting or protest about the Congo, or Sudan, or Colombia, and the hands are very few.
Why is that? Can it really be that the Spirit, That of God, the Light of Christ Within, wants Quakers to see the world from this same, media-driven America-centered perspective?
I dont believe it. And this leads me to ask, how much of our peacework is Spirit-led, and how much of it is media-driven?
Spirit-led, versus media-driven; thats a distinction worth pondering, I think. Its also why I very much admire those Friends who are the glaring exceptions to this rule, who like David Zarembka of St. Louis Meeting has focused on the Great Lakes region of Africa, where horrible wars and slaughter took place not long ago, and which are now off the media radar screens, where they were featured only briefly anyway.
When so many of us end up knowing more about All Things Considered than about what worked and what didnt in Friends epic struggle against slavery, or the other long term Quaker testimonies, I fear weve traded in a precious birthright for a collection of the coffee mugs and tote bags given out during NPR fundraising campaigns.
Let me come at this another way: Suppose the U.S. Armys generals got the bulk of their military knowledge from daily news broadcasts, and hardly any of them knew who Stonewall Jackson was, and how he outsmarted the Union army, or why all of Hitlers Panzer tank divisions couldnt stop George Patton in Europe? What would happen to their brigades and battalions when these men led them into battle?
Similarly, if we dont work diligently and deliberately to overcome that atomizing media conditioning, as Quaker peace workers were cooked. The only Lambs War well be good for is a Hundred-MINUTE Lambs War, if that.
The Quaker women and men I have known who were giants of peace witness, were very different from each other, but they had one important thing in common: on their issue, on their concern, they knew what they were talking about. Whether it was the Law of the Sea Treaty, or how to build a sanctuary movement to save central American refugees from the Reagan administrations covert wars, or even advising antiwar GIs on how to get safely out of the country, they knew their stuff. And they didnt attain this depth and credibility from 5-minute news reports. It took work, experience, study, and time, not to mention courage, worship, and spiritual strength.
The same thing goes for looking forward and thinking strategically, planning a Hundred-Year Lambs War. Can we figure out where we want to be in twenty or fifty years, and plan realistically to get there, or at least be headed continually in the right direction? I believe thats what we are called to do.
To this end, along with reading Lucretia Motts letters this spring, I also read a Marine Corps strategy manual. I wanted to begin to get a sense of what this kind of thinking might mean. And one thing it means is setting several levels of goals, based on realistic analyses of ourselves and our history, our strengths, weaknesses, and various other factorsand doing the same thing with our adversaries.
At the highest level, this yields grand strategy. Thats what we saw in the White House National Security Strategy: to maintain American preeminence, while we remake the world, by squashing any real or imagined rival. For Lincoln in the Civil War, as I understand it, the grand strategy was similarly straightforward: blockade the Confederate states along the coast, split them in two down the Mississippi river, and then starve or crush their forces one chunk at a time. And thats more or less how it worked out, though of course real wars are never that neat.
Under the umbrella of grand strategy come operational goals, the major plans for achieving the grand strategic objectives. An example of this is what Colin Powell said about Saddam Husseins army in the first Gulf war - do you remember? He said: First we're going to cut it off, then we're going to kill it.
I wont have much to say much about operational our own goals here, even though thats where the sexy stuff is, when some get arrested or take other dramatic risks. Im going to pass by all that, mainly for lack of time, and out of respect for the limits of your ability to sit and listen to me talk. Anyway they will have to be hammered out in a broad, ongoing discussion, from which an informed consensus can emerge.
Ill only note in passing that it will be a mistake to think that the most important of such goals is the next election. This essentially continuous horserace will increasingly be an obsession in the media for the next year or so, and if it becomes ours as well, then well still be lost in the wilderness. Instead, I hope we can begin to approach that election from the perspective of a Hundred-Year Lambs War. Then, no matter which way it turns out, well find more opportunities, and sustain hope.
My Friend Lucretia Mott comes back to mind here. Lucretia only rarely referred to elections in the many letters and sermons I read. I suspect thats because she fully expected that attaining equality for women would take a lifetime of labor, and even longer. She was also clear that there were many ways of making social change, while presidents came and went. And she knew her Bible, too, so no doubt the verse about not putting our trust in princes was familiar to her.
For us today, I hope a concept like the Hundred-Year Lambs War may help us see the forest behind and encompassing the electoral trees. If its going to take at least that long to make any headway, I believe some grand strategic concepts can help us make the most faithful use of our limited resources.
And I believe that taking a long-term view of our witness can help us overcome the disempowering effects of the moment-to-moment media fixation. It can put the media in perspective, making them an asset for our larger work, instead of a distraction from and even a substitute for it.
So lets see if we can think like Lucretia for a few minutes. I want to offer for your consideration three goals which could form the over-arching basis of the Hundred-Year Lambs War, a framework for a century of work:
First: To make the United States into a law-abiding member of the international community, respecting human rights both internally and externally.
Second: To move the three great monotheistic religions to a place where they conduct their rivalry without violence or bloodshed. And
Third: To make the Religious Society of Friends a meaningful player in both arenas, and one that can go the distance.
The Hundred-Year Lambs War could serve as a Quaker counterpart and rival to the plan for a century dominated by American military might and the rival drive for a fanatic theocracy. Even partial progress toward these ends would make the world a safer place and increase our chances of surviving the clash of crusaders and their bloody visions.
Lets take a quick look at these three goals:
First, getting the U.S. to be a law-abiding, human rights-friendly international citizen. Only a few years ago such an idea might have seemed mundane or even banal. But now its downright radical, and even under the best of circumstances, it will take decades to reconstruct the major elements of international law and order that have been undermined or demolished in the recent past.
Second, peaceful rivalry among the monotheisms, Christianity, Judaism and Islam. To me this is at least as important a goal as taming the American empire, and probably more difficult. And for this, a century is likely a very short time. After all, we dont often recall that it took western Christianity about three hundred years and rivers of blood to reach a similar place internally.
Three hundred years of war to figure out that the differences between its various Christian sects could be settled in some other way than by one group exterminating another. (Even then, many of them still thought it was just fine to slaughter other monotheists, such as Jews and Muslims, right down to my own lifetime.)
This substantial but imperfect truce among most European Christians is both one of our cultures highest achievements, and one of its least known. Where are the peace museums celebrating the way most Western Catholics and Protestants finally learned to stop killing each other - and recalling the significant Quaker role in that process?
This saga - which we know so little of - could be an asset, a model, and warning as we set out to play a part in ending the current religious warfare. And make no mistake: many of the wars and rumors of war that threaten us today and tomorrow will be religious at bottom.
Here I differ from many of my more left-wing colleagues, because I dont think its all about oil, or Halliburton and other multinational corporations, though yes, these all play their part. Its about God, and who gets to play God, and be the enforcer for the divine.
And then theres the third goal of the Hundred-Year Lambs War making the Religious Society of Friends a long-term player.
What would it mean to plan a Quaker peace witness on such a long-term basis?
Would deciding to be part of it make any difference when we got back home to our meetings?
Would it reorder any priorities, lead us to do something different next week, or next month?
Would it change the usual routine of following one media-hyped crisis after another, and fixating on the endless horesrace of electoral politics?
I believe it could make a difference. And the way to approach those differences is to consider the other two lessons Ive taken from the military, starting with doing what an army in action does first, which is to secure its base.
For an armed force heading for combat, securing the base means making sure they have the supplies, the transportation, the food and bullets to fight their battles, safe places to store them, and hospitals to take care of the wounded. More broadly, it means keeping Congress and the public hypnotized by militarist propaganda, thats how they keep recruits signing up and megabillions in tax money flowing to the Pentagon.
Remember those 300-plus war museums? They are not just about the past; they are also strategic investments in shaping present and future public awareness, and they pay handsome long-term dividends. They tell - and re-tell, and re-tell - a simple story: For America, war is necessary, war works, war is exciting, war is worth it, and war is almost painless.
What would securing our base mean for Friends? Let me suggest three things for starters:
First, it means build our meetings. Build them spiritually, first and foremost; and physically, and numerically. Thats our base; without them were nothing.
Second, to this growing base of strong meetings, let us add a national network of twenty or more replicas of Quaker House. If were going to be mounting a Hundred-Year Lambs War, we will need more projects like Quaker House, which have fulltime, professional staff. They will be regionally controlled, but able to see beyond their back yard, and with sufficient support to keep them going for at least the 35 years that weve managed to survive in Fayetteville.
These projects would reflect the fact that theres plenty of peace work to be done. As the Bible says, the fields are ripe for the harvest, so lets pray that the lord of the harvest will send laborers - and then have someplace for them to work from when they do appear.
Another reason to build these new projects is that we need to support and develop our own pool of expertise and skill, without supplanting our decentralized, lay-led meeting structures, and this is a way to do that. In my time, too many of the best activist Friends have had to go elsewhere to exercise their gifts and follow their leadings, and not a few have thereby been lost to us. Its been our own homegrown Quaker brain drain.
Each will have its own mission, as we do, fitted to its situation and the concerns of its sponsors. Some could well be the home of peace museums. But whatever their particular agendas, these new projects should all be well-networked, in touch with each other regularly for cooperation, learning and self-defense. If theyre well-designed, these new projects wont break our bank accounts; and anyway, were not a poor church.
Support for these new projects need not be all Quaker, just mostly. The remarkable religious peace movement brought to light by the latest Iraq war offers many new opportunities for supportive networking, if we will only go out and get to work on it. (Thats another helpful hint that the military understands well, but our government evidently does not: allies are good, especially in a long-term struggle.)
Building and securing our base is also closely related to the third major lesson Ive taken from the military, which is the priority of training. If were going to mount the Hundred-Year Lambs War, then from Day One we had better be about the business of training the next generations to be ready to take over for us - not least so they can fix our mistakes -- because their turn will be coming soon. That training needs to be a central part of all our programs.
I well remember the later letters that Lucretia Mott wrote to Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and other founding colleagues in the womens movement. In them she spoke often and gratefully about the second generation of strong, smart young women activists who were emerging. She encouraged them, she praised them - and she quietly called on her other elder fore-mothers to give them a helping hand, and then get gracefully out of their way.
Yet here, Friends, is another area where Im afraid were in pretty sad shape. If most of us know so little about the rich and important history of Quaker peace witness, - its failures as well as its successes - how are we supposed to improve and transmit this heritage and this work to new attenders and to our children?
One telling indication of the situation on this front for me came a couple of years ago. I asked a question to a roomful of teachers in Quaker schools - how do you teach Quakerism? The general answer - after a long, embarrassed silence - was: Mainly by osmosis. I was tempted to ask if they also taught math and science by osmosis; but that would have been flippant.
Or maybe not. Can we imagine an instructor at West Point or the Air Force Academy teaching navigation, or artillery - or strategy - by osmosis? No wonder their graduates are the best in their business. And militarys training priorities do not stop with the academies training future generals and admirals - not at all.
The services are just as serious about training those who will be sergeants and petty officers. This fact is obvious to me every day that the artillery out on Fort Bragg rattles our windows at Quaker House: the troops there only fight wars occasionally. But they train all the time. In this respect, the 82d Airborne at Fort Bragg had nothing on Lucretia Mott. May that soon come to be true of the rest of us as well!
The army emphasizes training because they know the answer to a basic question, namely: If they dont prepare their own new leaders and troops, who will? The answer, of course, is nobody.
By and large, however, too many unprogrammed Friends (I speak here of my own branch; pastoral Friends can judge themselves) seem to have forgotten both the answer and the question. But if we dont train new Quakers in the past and present of Quaker worship and witness, who will? And without that, what kind of future can either have?
To prepare new and young Friends to carry on the Hundred-Year Lambs War, well need a lot more new and substantive Religious Education material, and a lot more teachers, than we have now. And this religious education Im imagining is not just for kids, its not just for classrooms, and its not just for First Days.
It will also be an integral part of the work of all active Quaker organizations. It already is, in the best of them: FCNL and the Quaker UN Office and Pendle Hill have youth interns every year, as part of their ongoing work. And I cant neglect to mention the unique Quaker Leadership Scholars Program at Guilford College.
Good as all these are, theyre not enough. In close to 40 years among Friends, Ive seen too many committed young Quakers forced to go outside our ranks for the chance to learn service and to put their ideals into action. And many of them havent come back. To sustain the Hundred-Year Lambs War, we need to turn that around, and the sooner the better.
Much of that work may seem humdrum, routine, and unrelated to the exciting and scary business of war and peace as reflected through the mass media. And yes, routine some of these tasks may be, unlikely ever to show up on the news. But are such tasks part of the bigger strategic picture? You bet they are - important parts too.
The Army understands this: its whats behind a phrase I mentioned awhile ago, the tooth to tail ratio. Thats army-talk for the fact that for every soldier who actually fires a weapon or drops a bomb, there are ten to twelve more behind her or him, in a long and often humdrum line. Most will never be noticed by the action-obsessed embedded war reporters, but from the long-term, strategic perspective, every link in the chain has its place.
The same goes for us. For many Friends, a role in the Hundred-Year Lambs War may mean teaching First Day School, balancing a growing meetings budget, deepening our worship, caring for those who are hurting or spiritually lost among us, - in other words, securing our base. Or pursuing a leading to really understand Islam.
So thats what I meant when I began by saying we need to declare war, the kind of war our tradition recognizes. I urge you to pursue this conversation about how Friends can prepare to help redeem the calamitous nuclear hubris of the American Century, and to play our part in overcoming the ancient impulse to make war for the glory of God. Thats easily the work of a hundred years.
But how do we connect the Hundred Year grand strategy with the tasks of today? What could we do today to help launch and advance the Hundred-Year Lambs War?
Of course, there is no friendly Pentagon, no broad-brimmed Chiefs of Staff to issue our marching orders - though I cant help recalling that it wasnt so long ago that Quakers did wear uniforms, and our guiding handbooks were called Books of Discipline - which is a favorite military term - so these concepts may not be as alien to Quakerism as some today tend to think. Nevertheless, Quakerism is not an army, and each of us is called to find our own leading, our own place in the tooth-to-tail ratio, working together with others as way opens. I think of us as pieces of a patchwork quilt, odd and irregular in shape, size, color and texture, but worked by the Divine Quilter, so that all our peculiarities somehow fit together the way theyre supposed to.
Fortunately, the goals of the Hundred-Year Lambs War provide a very broad quilt. Theres room under it for Friends whose pieces are concerned with womens issues, the environment, racism, or poverty. It can also cover very different styles, from inside lobbyists to outside agitators, scholars and visionaries, lone wolves and committee junkies.
So I dont think making these connections between the overall plan and the everyday will be that hard to do. Still, if this notion of a Hundred-Year Lambs War speaks to you, but youd feel better with a To-Do list, here are several suggestions for getting started on it, in ascending order of challenge.
First, you can write a check to your meeting - and add a zero to your usual amount. Whats the connection between that and the Hundred Year Lambs War? Easy: it will help to secure our base. And if you dont write checks to your meeting, as I didnt for most of my early years, I suggest its time to start.
Second, read a good book about Quaker history and witness. I dont mean some pamphlet or magazine article either. Theres been a lot of exciting scholarship in the last twenty years, challenging many of our comfortable notions about our Quaker selves. So get one or more of these, and learn what it has to teach you.
And then, find another one. And you might also pick up the Bible - it was one of Lucretias strongest and most reliable weapons of spiritual warfare. To do all this you might have to turn off the radio for awhile; but just for awhile. Whats the connection here? It helps develop the long-term view that we need so badly.
Third, you can start a discussion/planning group in your meeting and with other meetings about the Quaker House-type project that could best serve the needs and opportunities for long-term peace work in your area. Will it offer GI counseling? Counter-recruitment? A peace museum? Ongoing public education? Youth work? All of the above? What alliances would help make it happen? The connections here are: More base-building, and new training facilities. And you can commit to sticking with this seeking even if it takes a decade to bear concrete results. Weve got a century to work with, remember.
Fourth, you could learn Arabic. Its a fundamental tool for being of use in serious peacebuilding in relation to Islam.
Or, how about Hebrew? Its a humbling fact that learning foreign languages is one of the hardest things to get American college students to do these days. This in my view is another indicator of how far so many of us have been assimilated into the imperial outlook: everywhere Americans go today, other people learn English. Its the language of power in the new American Century. Yet learning another groups language is the key to opening the door to true cross-cultural understanding and reconciliation. Do American Friends in particular have the gumption to break out of that circle of privilege? Its not a matter of guilt, but simple competence.
Fifth, and perhaps most challenging - after youve read a couple of these meaty new books I mentioned, and done some Bible study, you can sign up to teach First Day School.
Adding to the challenge of this call is the fact that to fulfill this part of the Hundred-Year Lambs War objectives, youll need a lot of material that doesnt exist yet; so you may have to research and write it, or figure out how to support someone else who can.
Remember the message of all those war museums and memorials? War works; war is exciting; war is almost painless. We have a different story to tell, and re-tell: There is another and better way than war. It can work; it HAS worked; it can work again. We can make it happen. Theres plenty of material for this story in Americas Quaker past and present, but its vastly under-utilized, a lamp shamefully hid under a bushel.
Oh - I almost forgot; theres one more thing. This is for unprogrammed Friends generally, rather than as individuals: if were going to secure our a base so it can truly sustain a centurys worth of Quaker peace witness, a Hundred-Year Lambs War, theres one other drastic change we cant avoid.
Yes, Friends, were going to have to just give it up, and learn how to sing.
Thats right, I said sing. Together.
Like the Methodists, and the evangelicals.
Why? Its no mystery: I was a rookie activist in the civil rights movement. And later, Ive had jobs where there were labor unions. In both these movements, and lots of others, when they were at their best and most powerful, music was one of their key assets, for inspiration, for morale, for courage and inspiration.
A singing church, like a singing movement, has hope, and a future. So were going to have to just bite the bullet, and get with the program.
And by the way, the military figured this one out too, a long time ago. If you are tempted to snicker at military music, youre making a mistake. It keeps the troops marching; its done it for centuries.
Im not the one, by the way, to lead this change in our customs. Thats for others, and maybe the next generation.
But one way or another, weve got to do it, Friends.
Cant you see? Theres a war on!