Saturday, April 30, 2011

Our means are everything.

Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King Jr.Image by mattlemmon via FlickrI'm currently re-reading a book that's been on my heart since the eruption of people power movements across North Africa and the Middle East in recent months.  "Christian Peacemaking:  From Heritage to Hope" by Daniel L. Buttry tells the stories of peace movements biblically and historically and I find my imagination inspired and challenged as I read.  I could spend a whole lifetime re-learning history and allowing my patterns of thought to be healed and changed.  And then I could use another whole lifetime to apply what I've learned, to try and make the world a place that looks more like God intended.

My husband and I are just about 9 months into parenting our little honey haired baby boy.  Saying yes to marriage and to motherhood, has, for now, simultaneously meant saying 'no' (or 'not right now') to travel and spending time in communities in various nations as I'd been doing previously.  But I'm realizing that I have a massive opportunity to allow the ideas that swirl in my mind regarding peacemaking and international conflict and how humans should relate to each other find skin - in the ways that I treat my child.  Buttry emphasizes Mahatma Ghandi's core belief that means (rather than the end) are everything, and if we take care of the means, we are bound to find the end sooner or later.

Our means are everything.

"Nonviolence was not just a tactic to achieve political, civil or economic goals; it was a means in line with the explicit end of a human community marked by friendship, understanding, and justice."  Buttry referenced Martin Luther King Jr's shared commitment to nonviolence during the Civil Rights Movement.  Dr. King chose nonviolence not only because it could bring desperately needed change in the US in the way African Americans were treated, but because the use of violence, coercion and force are not ways that anyone should be treated. 

I have dreams of living in an area of conflict as a witness to peace.  I don't know if this will actually happen in terms of making a home in Palestine, Iraq or Nigeria (or a long list of other possible places).  Maybe.  But I do have a baby quickly growing into a little boy (who will soon be a teenager/man/husband/father/influencer) who's imagination is young and free, and he's learning from everything that he sees me do and say.  My husband and I have very important decisions to make in how we parent him.  Will we use coercion, force, even violence?  Or will our parenting be marked by 'friendship, understanding and justice?"  What if using force brings the desired 'end' (obedience?  a 'good' child?) quickly?  I'm not even sure I want a 'good' child.  I'd rather have a compassionate, sincere, loving child who's able to empathize with others and think creatively to solve problems in ways that honour everyone involved.  How can our parenting choices get our little baby there?

I'm sure we'll make mistakes - lots of them.  But we're going to do our best to walk down the road to peace, unsure of what the end will be.  But our means are extremely important - maybe even everything. 

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