despair, resistance and Lions for Lambs

Here’s a letter I penned soon after our recent court appearance for disrupting the Talisman Sabre military exercises last year (reflections here), but never sent.

Dear friends,

I’m sitting here having just finished watching Meryl Streep, Tom Cruise, and Robert Redford in Lions For Lambs, and thinking about the despair that pervades the US and so many of us about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.  And as I think about this in light of events in my own life in the past year, I thought it might be worth sharing these reflections with you about hope, resistance and Christian discipleship in the midst of despair.

Despair is far too easy; more than that, it’s a luxury for those of us in the First World, sitting comfortably in our homes lit by energy saving bulbs watching the horrors unfold in front of us. We can pontificate as to whether we believe this war is about oil, or about democracy; about ridding the world of an evil dictator, or weapons of mass destruction, or about establishing US bases in the Middle East…or maybe all of the above.  Conversations about the arrogance of America, or about its greed, or even Australia’s complicity become nauseating.  Putting our faith in democracy, or in policy, or in the law to be able to work it all out is futile; worse, it’s idolatry.  In the end it all adds up to empire.  And really it doesn’t matter which empire – it could be Rome, it could be the United States of America, or (who knows?) in a few years maybe China.  It really doesn’t matter.  What matters, for those of us who put our faith in Christ, is where we sit in such moments of time.  How do we follow Jesus?  Where was he found?

Hanging from a cross, it would seem, in the midst of empire, damned by all for the sake of maintaining the status quo.  As happens so often in history, having sat with the victims of empire, he became one.  And he calls us to do the same; to deny ourselves – our privilege, our position, our power – take up our cross, and follow him.

And so it comes down to this: discipleship is about where we sit.  Or as Phil Berrigan once put it, somewhat more crudely (but I think more accurately), “Hope is where your ass is.”  Do we sit with the victims of empire, or with its powerbrokers?  Do we sit in the prisons, the courtrooms, the homeless shelters, amongst others whom our society have marginalised or rejected?  Or do we sit in the imperial courtyards of power, and, like Peter, deny the suffering and tortured Christ because of our presence there?

I am left from our time in court last week with one question; not was this the right thing to do, but (like my good friend and co-defendant Sarah) why not more?  How can I go about my daily business with the occasional nod to war resistance when people are being murdered in my name while I sleep?  As Dan Berrigan says, “We have assumed the name of peacemakers, but we have been, by and large, unwilling to pay any significant price. And because we want the peace with half a heart and half a life and will, the war, of course, continues, because the waging of war, by its nature, is total–but the waging of peace, by our own cowardice, is partial.”  If despair is cheap, resistance in the West is an absolute bargain.  Six months’ good behaviour bond is an encouragement to go back for more.

I particularly want to thank those of you who supported us – whether you wrote letters or references, prayed, planted trees or played frisbee with a friend, stranger or enemy; your solidarity made this easier for us, particularly because as Wink says, “history belongs to the intercessors”.  May those of us tempted by despair feel ourselves drawn to the invitation to audacious hope that is the good news of Jesus Christ.

Blessings of peace,

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