Lutheran Peace Fellowship

What Now for Peacemaking?
Lutheran Peace Fellowship

"Here in America we are descended in spirit from revolutionists and rebels -- men and women who dare to dissent from accepted doctrine." Dwight Eisenhower

Dear Friend of Peace,

A lot of people are asking the question, "How do peacemakers keep going now?" and "What good is dissent when so many people seem to believe that recent battlefield successes prove peace people were wrong?" and "Won't this victory in Iraq embolden this administration to the next war, to permanent war?"

It seems to me that peacemakers have four main responses to these questions. I'll offer a few sentences and references about each and then share a couple brief articles by others.

First, among our friends and in our activist groups, we would be wise to take time for our own encouragement and healing. I recommend Paul Loeb's talk at St. Mark's Cathedral on "Why Activism Matters Now" (audio available free in a week at: Click the arrow on "Select a Program" and scroll down to "Speakers Forum"). A briefer piece is printed below (others are at his web site which is the title of his most recent, superb book: Among many other articles are several by Howard Zinn (one is attached below), or Betsy Hartmann's "Nine Theses on Moving the Peace Movement Forward" (at It's natural to have moments of feeling depressed, marginalized, or overwhelmed (I've certainly had them). It is possible to get past them by taking care of ourselves (exercise, friendships, spiritual practice . . . ), reminders like these of how social change happens, and then rolling up our sleeves and doing it! Because they are not part of public discourse, we need to share them.

Second, most of our criticisms of this war are still accurate -- and still cry out for creative articulation in conversations, letters to the editor, and calls to talk radio: This war was not just. It was unnecessary. It made us less safe. It will be far more costly than was ever admitted to the American public. War is diverting attention from deepening domestic needs and from the root causes of conflict and terrorism. It can only hurt our standing in the world. There is every reason to believe the administration will draw the most dangerous lessons from its perceived success. These are elaborated in many articles (e.g. Twelve Concerns . . . " and "Mr. President, as a parent . . . " are two brief examples on the LPF web site, feel free to share them with others). Even some pundits who supported the war have written some sober reflections in the past few days (e.g. "Hold Your Applause" by Thomas Friedman in the Wed. NY Times: or "Spoils of War" By BOB HERBERT the following day, as well as such well-reasoned pieces as: "After Iraq, Were the Peace Forces Mistaken?" at: or the newest reflections at Sojourner's:

Third, there always were more effective, more ethical, less risky alternatives than war. This war has polarized the discussion in the US. The bad news is that an often complicitous, cowardly media ignored its responsibility to offer a variety of points of view. The good news is that alternative media sources and a variety of peace groups have blossomed in the past few months. Many more people are open to nonviolence as a third way beyond the false choice of violence and passivity. What is needed is our continued leadership and encouragement. We would be well to seek to bridge artificial polarizations (e.g. between peace activists and military families, see for example "It takes courage" on the LPF and The Lutheran web sites) and to put forth articulate perspectives on nonviolence and the Iraq crisis (e.g. Sojourners six point plan, and LPF's "Alternatives to Military Action in Iraq" (spanish version) on the LPF, Sojo, and other web sites).

Fourth, this war is not about the reasons the administration has been giving for it. I recommend, for example a thoughtful piece, "How neo-conservatives conquered Washington -- and launched a war" by Michael Lind ( -- get the pass to read the whole thing, it's worth it). ZNet (at and and and other progressive web sites have a dozen new articles a day worth reading and passing on. Continue to be a link to useful sources of information to your friends and colleagues, and with occasional letters to the editor and articles, to your community.

"Courage requires reaching out to those who may not share all our assumptions or agree with us on every issue . . . [It requires that we] speak out in contexts where not everyone agrees with our words, because only then can our culture change . . . Overcoming fear means thinking about the kind of world we'd actually like to see, and not being afraid to advocate for it."

From Reclaiming Our Courage by Paul Loeb
author of Soul of a Citizen: Living With Conviction in a
Cynical Time
and three other books on citizen action. See To receive his articles regularly, email

"First, don't let "those who have power" intimidate you. No matter
how much power they have they cannot prevent you from living your life,
speaking your mind, thinking independently, having relationships with people as you like."

From: On Getting Along By Howard Zinn, March 7 1999
(posted on Znet at:

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