By Stanley Campbell
The United States loves war. If the dictum “Wheresoever your treasure lies, there is your heart” is true, our national treasure is tied into our defense industry. A greater percentage of the budget goes to weapons than to health, education or anything else.
During the season of Lent, Christians are asked to give up something they hold dear. Therefore, it would be good Christian penance to cut back military expenditures, at least for 40 days and 40 nights. Oh, if only this could happen! The world would be a better place, our budget might finally be balanced, and we might even have money left over for building a better society.
I once gave up candy for Lent. For 40 days and 40 nights, I wandered in the desert of no sweets. For this, I enjoyed even more the rush of chocolate bunnies and little yellow Peeps on Easter Sunday. Lent should be a time for sacrifice, when penitent sinners “give up” little luxuries and pleasant experiences.
I’ll probably end up just giving up sweets and try to exercise more, but I wish there was a way to encourage our country to cut back on their military expenditures. Especially in the Middle East, the weapons are piling up, and they are being used on innocent citizens. We’ve seen how the Palestinians and the Israelis go after each other, but now the Arab governments seem to be going after their own citizens, sometimes using American-made weapons.
As a peace activist, I deplore war; but whether I’d have the strength to stand up against a wicked government is something else. I’m inviting a well-known peace activist, Mark Johnson, the executive director of Fellowship of Reconciliation, who just came back from Jerusalem and Cairo, to share his thoughts during this time of Lent. He has more strength than I.
Mark was a conscientious objector doing alternative service in Beirut, where he was a teacher for six years. He’s been working for the Alliance of Mideast Peace and helped develop some of the leadership and training programs that taught democracy and non-violence. We can ask him what he thinks of the “Arab Spring.”
The Fellowship of Reconciliation (FOR) was founded by 68 pacifists, one of whom was our own Jane Addams, and claims to be “the largest, oldest peace and faith organization in the world.” It was started in 1915 as the world raced toward war, and they vowed to bring about the end of war. You can see how successful they’ve been.
Mark Johnson will be in Rockford Sunday, March 4, and I’ve invited him to speak at 6 p.m. at the JustGoods meeting room, 201 Seventh St. (enter from the west-side parking lot, as the store will not be open).
I learned about sacrificing for Lent at St. Bernadette’s Catholic grade school. The nuns taught us to give up chocolate (the closest thing to fasting), but they also taught us to try to do something good. I think by helping other countries secure a just peace and a better government is doing something good. Hope we can all do good, as well as give up bad.
Stanley Campbell is executive director of Rockford Urban Ministries and spokesman for Rockford Peace & Justice.
From the Feb. 22-28, 2012, issue