Last September, nine of us tried to deliver a letter to Senator Pete Domenici’s office, asking him to help end the immoral U.S. war and occupation of Iraq. We entered the Santa Fe Federal Building and got as far as the elevator, when officials pulled the plug and shut it down. For the rest of the day, we sat there, reading aloud the names of 2900 U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq, and tens of thousands of dead Iraqi civilians, before they arrested us. We stand trial in Albuquerque at the Federal Court House on Jan. 25th, 2007. I intend to explain how this war is illegal, and how we were just obeying God’s law of nonviolence.
This work for peace fits in well with the Christmas season. According to the story, 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.”
This week, as many of us celebrate the birth of the Prince of Peace, our country wages war in Iraq and Afghanistan. If we want to honor the Prince of Peace, we have to welcome this gift of “peace on earth,” which means we have to work for abolition of war itself.
Christmas celebrates a life of perfect nonviolence. And so it demands we cultivate nonviolent lives of our own. We’re summoned to study, teach, and practice nonviolence in every aspect of life so that one day peace will reign on earth. If we support the U.S. war on Iraq, or nuclear weapons at Los Alamos, or U.S. imperial domination, we do not honor Christ; we mock him. We side with the Herods and Pilates who slaughter the innocents and imprison and execute the peacemakers.
Christmas welcomes the God who says, “Blessed are the Peacemakers,” the God who commands, “Put down the sword,” the God who teaches, “Love your enemies.” To welcome the nonviolent Jesus, we have to renounce Bush’s war on our Iraqi sisters and brothers, demand an end to the occupation, insist that our troops come home now, and call for massive reparations to heal Iraq, a new global Marshall plan that will end poverty, hunger and injustice.
Jesus was born into poverty and died on a cross, executed by the Roman empire. You cannot honor him and likewise support the death penalty. Christmas also requires that we abolish the death penalty once and for all.
Most of all, Christmas demands we abolish our nuclear weapons. The weapons we prepare at Los Alamos mock those angels. Instead of peace on earth, they ring out: “War on earth!” This holy feast invites us to stop supporting the nuclear weapons industry, and to call upon our politicians to abolish our weapons of mass destruction, clean up our poisoned land, and use those resources to feed the hungry, house the homeless, eliminate disease, reverse global warming and teach the world’s children the way of peace. I hope and pray that everyone at Los Alamos will quit their jobs, that no one will join the military, that every Christian will take up Jesus’ ethic of nonviolence and that we all will do our part to welcome that Christmas gift of “peace on earth.”