Saturday, May 21, 2005

Meeting Notes for People for Peace, Justice, and Healing

People for Peace, Justice and Healing met on May 21, 2005, at Associated Ministries. Present: Sally M., Mark, Rob, Colleen, Dorothy, Louisa, Sheila, Kyle.


Colleen reported that on May 17 the Tacoma City Council adopted "a controversial six-month moratorium on the expansion or opening of new group homes, halfway houses, and transitional houses," to quote the News Tribune of May 18. The vote was 7-1 (Mike Longeran vote no; Connie Ladenburg was absent). Lonergan said the measure amounted to "outlawing poverty," and proposed an amendment limiting the moratorium to an area including the Hilltop and nearby neighborhoods, but the amendment lost by a vote of 6-2. Colleen led a discussion of the issue, seeking opinions from the group. She said there's no question but that Pierce County is the most heavily institutionalized county in the state. Consensus that further study on our part was needed.

The question chosen was "Does a practical person bother much about religion and philosophy?" This is adapted from this submission from Pam, a regular Conversation Café participant: "One of G.K. Chesterton's Father Brown detective stories includes this passage: "'I'm afraid I'm a practical man,' said the doctor with gruff humor, 'and I don't bother much about religion and philosophy.' 'You'll never be a practical man until you do,' said Father Brown." Conversation Café is open to all and is held from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. on Tuesday evenings at the Mandolin Café, 3923 South 12th St., Tacoma.

Upon request, Mark summarized a talk he gave May 20 at a Micah Project dinner at First United Methodist. The title: "Peace in the 21st Century and What Church Folks Can Do." Theme of the first part: There will not be peace in the 21st century, but there must be. There will not be peace because of four converging crises of U.S. & global society: political (capture of U.S. institutions by militarism), economic (U.S. dependency on imported petroleum & global peak oil), social (corporations endowed with a pathological form of personhood have become the dominant institution of our time), and environmental (global warming & possibly abrupt climate change). Only Congress and public opinion can avert disaster in the U.S.; the corporate-owned media is a hindrance. But there must be peace because these crises are so threatening that (1) the alternative is social collapse and war, disease, and famine on global scale, and (2) worldwide there exist in fact sufficient knowledge, shared values, and interconnectedness to avoid "collapse" (to use Jared Diamond's term). What is needed is vision. Theme the second part: What can church folk do? Save us. As sociologist Robert Bellah and evangelist Jim Wallis tell us, only social movements with a spiritual foundation effect lasting social change in America. But, to use Bergson’s distinction in The Two Sources of Morality and Religion (1932), church folk need to be inspired by dynamic, not static, religion. These Bergsonian terms refer to the two disparate sources of religious experience (which however are 'projected' onto a single psychological plane, as it were). Bergson’s vision of religion is as a necessary institution that has evolved with humanity itself to permit a social being endowed with intelligence and freedom to survive. Static religion is dedicated to the survival of the group and dictates rules and taboos, and asserts that "God is on our side." Dynamic religion arises from the human soul, the individual conscience, is the matrix of mysticism, inspires by means of models, and asks: "Are we on God’s side?" "Where there is no vision, the people perish," but the global vision must be of the nature of dynamic religion if we are to avert spiritual death. What is "required" is "to do justice, to love mercy [or kindness], and to walk humbly with thy God" (Micah 6:8).

Dorothy called attention to an article by Van Jones entitled "Two Crises, One Solution," in Yes! (Summer 2005), pp. 42-45. Discussion of Albert Schweitzer’s (1875-1965) concept of reverence for life, which emerged from an experience he had in 1915 and described in Out of My Life and Thought (1931): "Late on the third day, at the very moment when, at sunset, we were making our way through a herd of hippopotamuses, there flashed upon my mind, unforeseen and unsought, the phrase, 'Reverence for Life.' The iron door had yielded: the path in the thicket had become visible." Sheila mentioned in this context Paul Woodruff’s Reverence: Renewing a Forgotten Virtue (Oxford UP, 2001). [Summary from Booklist: "Philosopher Woodruff had an epiphany: reverence, 'the virtue that keeps human beings from trying to act like gods,' has been forgotten in our society. People practice reverence, but without understanding or valuing it. To rekindle awareness of the virtue that 'lies behind civility and all the graces that make life in society bearable and pleasant,' Woodruff defines reverence and explains how it makes community life possible. Drawing on two classic traditions, ancient Greek philosophy and Confucianism, as well as the poetry of Tennyson, Yeats, and Larkin, Woodruff carefully separates reverence -- the sense of a greater, transcendent force, the feeling of awe we feel in the presence of beauty -- from faith, showing how tyranny occurs when reverence breaks down. Like courage, reverence is not tied to any one belief system, and, as Woodruff so eloquently argues, 'habits of reverence' are essential to every sphere of life, from education to politics to land management to love."]

Does Buddhism counsel hope or the giving up of hope? Sheila pointed out the Four Noble Truths of Buddhism ("1. Life means suffering. 2. The origin of suffering is attachment. 3. The cessation of suffering is attainable. 4. The path to the cessation of suffering.") Re: #4, the "Noble Eightfold Path" is Right Views, Right Intention, Right Speech, Right Action, Right Livelihood, Right Effort, Right Mindfulness, and Right Concentration. -- Rob said, however, that hopefulness implies there is something better, and that the teaching of Buddhism is this view is an aberration; a better understanding is that it is unnecessary to change what is. Sheila mentioned Pema Chodren’s The Wisdom of Escape: And the Path of Loving Kindness (Shambhala, 2001).

Rather than being seen as something negative, human competitiveness can be regarded as an aspect of human nature than can be turned toward fruitful or harmful uses. Discussion.

Sheila gave an update on counter-recruitment activities and reported that the South Sound Peace & Justice Center has created a display that calls on young people to look carefully at the realities of the military and not to rely solely on what recruiters say. A bibliography of works helpful to young people facing these decisions is being developed.


1. Film Connection. The Film Connection in Seattle lends documentary films at no charge. In conjunction with Yes! magazine the Film Connection is running a Summer 2005 project. (Dorothy)
2. Dorothy’s daughter, Michelle Burkhart, has a 4-page article in the Summer 2005 number of Yes! entitled "Brazil! Creating a New Reality." (Dorothy) (In this connection, Colleen encourages people to consider going to the next World Social Forum; where this will be is not yet certain.)
3. Sheila recommends Daphna Golan-Agnon’s Next Year in Jerusalem: Everyday Life in a Divided Land (New Press, 2005). [From Publishers Weekly: "At once a memoir and a plea for a better understanding of the Israeli-Palestinian dilemma, this poignant offering from Golan-Agnon, instructor at the Hebrew University in Jerusalem and co-founder of the human rights organizations B'Tselem and Bat Shalom, decries human rights violations perpetrated against Palestinians. 'The most frightening similarity' between the apartheid in South Africa and the Israelis' persecution of Palestinians, she writes, is 'the precise and consistent use of the legal system to normalize the abnormal state of discrimination.' The author describes how many of her Palestinian friends and interview subjects have faced the demolition of their homes by Israeli authorities, the reduction of funding for their children's schools and abrupt, unexplained deportations that separate husbands and wives. Regardless of whether Palestinians or Israelis have the right to claim Jerusalem as their own, Golan-Agnon asserts that it is unacceptable that, 'in the realpolitik of the Middle East, the validity of international laws and resolutions' meant to ensure human rights 'seems not to apply to Palestinians.' Golan-Agnon relates the tragic stories of several Palestinians and candidly shares her own heartbreak in having to raise her two children in a land ruled by fear, violence and discrimination. In so doing, she delivers her humanitarian message in a deeply moving, meaningful way."]
4. PROGRESSIVE ROUNDTABLE. On Friday morning, May 27, at 7:00 a.m., the fourth meeting of the Progressive Roundtable will be held at Shakbrah Java, 2618 6th Ave., Tacoma. All who are active locally in progressive groups are welcome. (Mark)

Respectfully submitted,