I just got a note from my good friend, Jim Wallis, and I'd like to share it with you. It touches me that we seem to be on a first-name basis.
Ok, it's a mass mailing, but he has a point and I'd like to share it with you.
Jim is speaking to fellow Evangelical Christians, and so in a way, he's "speaking in tongues." But it's not that hard to translate, so let me just say that it matters little what, if any religion or faith you follow. What matters in efforts like this is intent.
As it happens, I grew up in the usual way in these United States - Sort of Christian. Between my mother's religious quest for simple answers and my father's dedication to the path of personal selfishness, I was exposed to both credulity and cynicism about spirituality. Naturally, I rejected both and made my own explorations, finding that when examined, there is a great deal to be said for Christian faith - if you ignore most of those most willing to provide ready reference cards to make it "easier to understand."
It's really not that complicated. Indeed, it's taken over 2000 years and the lives of thousands of dedicated theologians to obscure the Bible's ethos to the extent we see to day, where it's a matter of faith that God approves of blowing up random brown people in His Or Her Name. But this is not so much about faith or ethics as it is about ritual and intent - and for ritual and intent, there are no good Protestant sources, other than the Episcopal Church - and even there, the idea that there is a point and intent to the ritual has largely been lost. This is true for many Catholics as well. The reform of the Catholic liturgy was... well, it needed reformation. But it was apparently reformed by people who didn't really understand why you do rituals in the first place.
But when you wish to gather people together in a shared intent to effect a change in the course of things through pure intent, that is done by means of a ritual that defines and focuses that intent. By the by, we now have a scientific understanding that such focused intents can effect probability and appearently causation on a subatomic level. It really does change reality. (in wikispeak, citation needed.)
But in order to do that, the ritual must be precise. It's best to fit the current intent into an existing, well-practiced formula, which is why ditching liturgies wholesale is a bad idea.
But there are few books of ritual more familiar and well-worn than The Book of Common Prayer, and it would be profitable to study it's composition, and the way it can be used to build a full ritual from various paragraphs.
Now, I know Evangelicals are suspicious of ritual and it's trappings - although I've been to enough Evangelical, "spirit filled" events to wish they respected it more. Spiritually speaking, certain rituals are sensible - much like reflexively "safeing" your gun before putting it away. If you believe - as do I, and apparently as Jim Wallis does, that prayerful intent can have a real-world effect, it should be intuitively obvious that it can have a less than ideal result if you do not consider and carefully state the intent so that everyone shares the exact SAME intent.
Otherwise, the very best result is that nothing much happens. And indeed, if the only intent is political - simply getting a large number of people to send a message, that intent will be met simply by doing as Jim suggests. However, what Jim does NOT do is exclude the other intents that individuals may have, and therein lies the rub. There are potential pitfalls involved in simply "praying for peace," and praying at people to "make the right decision." Coercion is Unchristian - and unethical. Aside from that, it leads to most unpredictable outcomes.
Of course, the reason for formulaic prayers is to create templates for such occasions, so that potential pitfalls are avoided automatically. The risk is that the existence of those pitfalls will be forgotten as the price of having avoided them for so long.
I had thought to include an example within this post - but it seems that it's not so easy as it might appear; I'm sure there are suitable rituals - but most likely one would have to seek out Pagan and Wiccan sources and work from that point. Wiccans and other Pagans are on the forefront of ritual design these days because it's an article of their faiths - whatever else they may not agree upon - that ritual is the key to the expression of what they believe and what they wish to accomplish. This has been generally discounted within the greater Church - even the Anglican and Catholic branches have de-emphasized the importance of proper ritual.
And now we reach MY point: There can be no real or lasting peace without justice. I am unwilling to return to a state where we accept the largely nonviolent exploitation and oppression of people, with only isolated tragedies here and there as a consequence of brutal economic and class warfare as "peace."
Peace is not a general absence of outright warfare. It is not just the cessation of military adventures - it is also the abandonment of the intent behind them, to unjustly control the destenies of other persons, while holding them accountable for the costs of their own compliance.
Peace is just that; it is peace. It is the absence of the will to impose one's will on others - by whatever means.
And THAT is what you must seek - or you will simply be agitating for war by more comfortable means, with fewer disturbing images on television and casuaties measured only in relative standards of living.
So long as you are praying, in part, to maintain "our American Way of Life" as it has been within living memory, you are praying for what has been a state of constantly smoldering potential violence that occasionally breaks out into open aggression. And that is what I refer to above as an "unexpected outcome."
You see, in order to properly craft an intent, you must be brutally honest with yourself about what it is you seek, and what it will cost others should the result be "positive" from your point of view. Otherwise, while there may be a short-term shift in direction, the fundamental change many of us feel long overdue will come, not with hosannas, but with cries of outrage as the world re-aligns against OUR will and our interests.
Because, well, that's Karma, baby.
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