World-renowned peacemaker wants to have dinner with you
On the day before the 25-year-old North Carolinian professed his vows as a new Jesuit priest, John Dear was arrested for civil disobedience at the Pentagon. The threshold of a lifetime profoundly dedicated to non-violence.
More than 75 arrests later, this gentle yet powerful peacemaker is coming to share a meal and some conversation with you in our neighboring town of Kenwood. Please post Sunday afternoon, February 12 on your calendar at once so you won’t miss out.
I consider John Dear to be one of the most effective, outspoken, knowledgeable and downright courageous peacemakers at work in this 21st century. I’m in good company – Archbishop Desmond Tutu nominated John Dear for the Nobel Peace Prize. I invite you to come listen to a few of his insights, perhaps purchase one of his many books and take in some of his sweet and generous presence.
Folks who choose to become better informed and involved by investing resources in conferences, demonstrations and seminars are accustomed to finding Fr. John Dear among presenters and/or participants. I cherish memories of warm, personal conversations with John in diverse locations including Miami, Florida; Milwaukee, Wisconsin; the “School of the Americas” in Columbus, Georgia and the Desert Flats in Nevada where the testing of atomic bombs took place in the 1950s, leaving a disastrous legacy of health and environmental consequences.
This peace activist’s life is crowded with studying; teaching; priestly assignments; public speaking at every possible opportunity and prolific writing – articles, columns and a whole library of books.
John will tell us much and answer questions about his latest, “Lazarus, Come Forth! How Jesus Confronts the Culture of Death and Invites us into the New Life of Peace.”
From another piece of John’s work, I glean that peace work follows well upon the Christmas season. He wrote: Jesus was born to homeless refugees in abject poverty on the outskirts of a brutal empire. On that night, a chorus of angels appeared to impoverished shepherds, singing “Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth!” The child grew up to become, in Gandhi’s words, “the greatest nonviolent resister in the history of the world.”
On Sunday February 12, come to St. Patrick’s Episcopal Church and Hall at 9000 Sonoma Highway in Kenwood for the 4 p.m. discussion with John Dear and pasta dinner. Admission is free, although donations will help cover travel costs for our special guest.
Let me close with one of my favorite stories about John Dear:
In December of 2003, when John was assigned to be pastor of several scattered small churches in northeastern New Mexico, he naturally carried along his oft-expressed opposition to the invasion and occupation of Iraq. His position didn’t sit well with conservative Catholics there, even though his opinions were in concert with then-pope John-Paul II. I have been in awe ever since receiving by email John’s report of a morning in November titled “Soldiers at My Front Door.” Excerpts follow…
I live in a tiny, remote, impoverished, three-block-long town in the desert. Last week, it was announced that the local National Guard unit based in the nearby Armory was being deployed to Iraq early next year. I was surprised the following morning to hear soldiers singing, shouting and screaming as they jogged down Main Street, past our St. Joseph’s church, back and forth around town for an hour.
At 6 a.m., they woke me with their war slogans, chants like “Kill! Kill! Kill!” and “Swing your guns from left to right; we can kill those guys all night.”
John wrote that he understands young people preparing to go to war need to “psyche themselves up for the kill. They have to believe that flying off to some tiny, remote desert town in Iraq where they will march in front of someone’s house and kill poor young Iraqis has some greater meaning besides cold-blooded murder.
“Most of these young reservists have never left our town, and they need our support for the “unpleasant” task before them. I have been to Iraq, and led a delegation of Nobel Peace Prize winners to Baghdad in 1999, and I know that the people there are no different than the people here…
“Suddenly, at 7 a.m., the shouting got dramatically louder. I looked out the front window of the house where I live, next door to the church, and there they were – 75 of them, standing yards away from my front door, in the street right in front of my house and our church, shouting and screaming to the top of their lungs, “Kill! Kill! Kill!”
“Their commanders…were egging them on. Astonished and appalled, I suddenly realized I do not need to go to Iraq; the war had come to my front door. Over the years, I’ve been arrested many times in demonstrations, been imprisoned for a “Plowshares” disarmament action, been bugged, tapped, and harassed, searched at airports, and monitored by police. But this time, the soldiers who would soon march through Baghdad and attack desert homes in Iraq, practiced on me. They confronted me personally, just as the death squad militaries did in Guatemala and El Salvador in the 1980s, which I witnessed there on several occasions.
“I decided I had to do something. I put on my winter coat and walked out the front door right into the middle of the street. They stopped shouting and looked at me, so I said loudly, publicly for all to hear, ‘In the name of God, I order all of you to stop this nonsense, and not go to Iraq. I want all of you to quit the military, disobey your orders to kill, and not kill anyone. I do not want you to get killed. I want you to practice the love and nonviolence of Jesus. God does not bless war…God does not support war. Stop all this and go home. God bless you.’
“Their jaws dropped, their eyeballs popped and they stood in shock and silence, looking steadily at me. Then they burst out laughing. Finally, the commander dismissed them and they left.”
Meet this Jesuit 4 to 6:30 p.m., Sunday, February 12 at St. Patrick’s in Kenwood. Call Dan Vrooman at 490.2127 or David Carlson at 707.293.7159 with any questions or perhaps to offer a donation for the festive meal.
At 3 p.m. that Sunday in the same location, the Emmaus community will offer a unique inclusive liturgy. As always at Emmaus liturgies, the public is welcome to be present.
I feel truly, truly sad that I must miss this entire event. Especially since, as a member of the board of the Emmaus Community, I was one of the folks who chose to invite him! Sure hope you and all your friends can be there in my stead. Next week I’ll reveal why I cannot attend.