Rev. Valerie's Reveries

This blog contains personal reflections from Unitarian Universalist minister Valerie Mapstone Ackerman.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Early on September 11, 2001 while at the gym working out on the elliptical trainer I saw the NBC live coverage of the second plane flying into the World Trade Center tower. Like many millions of Americans, I knew immediately that the utter horror we just witnessed would be followed by very unpleasant reactivity. In an instant my mind flooded with knowledge: thousands were dead--terrorists from the Middle East--retaliatory strikes--protracted war--all of it seemed inevitable. A flood of grief followed and then fear that my loved ones were not safe. By that afternoon the church I served had a sign on the lawn that read: "...Dwell Together in Peace..." a partial quote from our Sunday morning covenant.

By October there were calls for my resignation after I made a public statement against militarism, offered a critique of false patriotism and followed with a sermon urging pacifism. Soon I found allies in the community, we traveled to DC for a march in April 2002, we came back and started a weekly silent vigil in front of Tulsa's Federal Building--just me, John D., Janet and Mikey. Eventually others joined us and the movement built, other locations were tried, other actions ensued, films were shown, an organization founded: Tulsa Peace Fellowship.

When I moved to Lancaster Pennsylvania summer of 2003, I took up a place on the line with Women in Black and found myself utterly alone again as the singular pacifist preacher in a sea of "Peace Churches"--even the Mennonites and Amish and Brethren refused to speak up for peace. The world had become curioser and curioser.

Back in Tulsa, in the spring of 2004 I found that the peace movement continued to grow. Dozens stood on the corners and dozens more attended rallies and education programs. Hundreds signed up for an email list. I began to feel a though I was living in slow motion, seeing the impotent words on our signs, feeling the powerlessness that comes with a society's wholesale moral abandon, realizing that hundreds of names on an e-list were potential and nothing more until there was a way to mobilize them.

And yet... Oklahoma City has a Peace House and so does Crawford TX..goodness knows neither community is a hotbed of progressive thought. So why should Tulsa not have an institutional presence for peace?

Now we do. We signed a lease on an old Church of Christ building. The money will find its way to the coffers to keep the doors open of that I am ridiculously certain. If you're in the Tulsa area, let me know and I'll put you on our e-list (announcements only) and if you aren't--go start a peace house in your community. Peace ain't likely to break out unless we build strong movements. Let me know how it's going where you have planted your seeds of peace.


  • At June 22, 2006 8:23 AM, Blogger Bill Baar said…

    I have a friend who went to prison during WWII because he was opposed to that war. He felt there was no difference between Hitler and FDR.

    He was wrong. And as I reflect on him, sadly, I find Orwell's description of pacifism fits.

    When you tell people you're a pacifist, do know, for some of us, it's a very cruel belief indeed.

    Here's Orwell writing back in 1941,

    Pacifist literature abounds with equivocal remarks which, if they mean anything, appear to mean that statesmen of the type of Hitler are preferable to those of the type of Churchill, and that violence is perhaps excusable if it is violent enough. After the fall of France, the French pacifists, faced by a real choice which their English colleagues have not had to make, mostly went over to the Nazis, and in England there appears to have been some small overlap of membership between the Peace Pledge Union and the Blackshirts. Pacifist writers have written in praise of Carlyle, one of the intellectual fathers of Fascism. All in all it is difficult not to feel that pacifism, as it appears among a section of the intelligentsia, is secretly inspired by an admiration for power and successful cruelty.

  • At June 22, 2006 4:52 PM, Blogger joni said…

    Bill Baar,
    I truly feel that there is as Great a difference between Pacifism and Peace Mongering.

    Just as there is a Very Real similarity between FDR/Churchill and Hitler, The similarity being that without all three the atrocities we saw would not have gone as far as they had.

    Now we're in 2006, under the misleadership that has been brought to us Courtesy of "lesser evilism"

    Peace can only come thru Justice.
    True Justice can only come thru Nonviolent Peace Action.

    For those who confuse Pacifism with Placating, i would question the view.

    To urge reflection following a tragedy may be viewed by many in a dysfuntional society as acceptance,
    it is not.

    There is much to learn here for those with the eyes to see.

    To reflect on the enemies we have both domestic and abroad, and what has caused them to be, and then act from a wisdom and understanding in order to remedy the fostering of those in existence or the creation of ever more, well, perhaps even Orwell would wonder at the actions taken by an Imperialistic Oligarchy in the guise of Theocracy and perhaps be shaking his head at the bizarreness of Truth being even Stranger than Fiction.

  • At June 26, 2006 9:06 AM, Blogger Paul Tay said…

    Every action we take has risks. One of the risks is being WRONG. But, yet, we assume the risk anyways. Part of life, I suppose.

  • At June 26, 2006 3:50 PM, Blogger Paul Tay said…

    Blasphemy! A public statement critickin' false patroitism and a sermon urgin' pacifism? My goodness, what's a warmonger to do in dis crummy town?

    The Mennons, the Amish, and the Brethren probably all refuse to speak up for peace because they all know the all the guards and the inmates at the local county jail will make their life miserable. However, if they pretend to be Christians, they got it made. Worked great for me in the OKC clink. Don't let anyone know I am actually a Buddhist Jew.

  • At July 15, 2006 7:57 PM, Blogger Dragon Lady said…

    I finally got here - funny, yesterday, I received a free american flag - from a bible group of some sort asking for money - to which, remember the lilies of the field I would reply. It's one of those flimsy thing, made in china kind. I've no mind to burn it - today. Mostly wanted to just say hi as we met a week ago wednesday.

  • At July 31, 2006 12:13 PM, Blogger Bill Baar said…


    Nieburhr wrote back in 1940; when most Liberal Protestant Clergy were getting politics badly wrong.

    One of the most terrible consequences of a confused religious absolutism is that it is forced to condone such tyranny as that of Germany in the nations which it has conquered and now cruelly oppresses. It usually does this by insisting that the tyranny is no worse than that which is practised in the so-called democratic nations. Whateverve may be the moral ambiguities of the so-called democratic nations, and however serious may be their failure to conform perfectly to the democratic ideals, it is a sheer moral perversity to equate the inconcsistencies of a democratic civiliaztion with the brutalities which modern tyrannical States practise. If we cannot make a distinction here, there are no historical distinctions which have any value. All the distinction upon which the fate of civilization has turned in the history of mankind have been just such relative distinctions.

    --p139, J. Loconte's End of Illusions

    The great challange for Liberalism is too make the relative distinctions. We don't like that because it often involves picking the lessor of evils. We comprimise ourselves as hypocrites (a favorite word I find used far to freely at Church.)

    That the United States is hardly and Imperialistic Oligarchy and that this as reported in The Vancouver Sun is indeed our great foe.

    An Editorial in the Austrialian,

    When one strips away all the emotional and political baggage from the situation in the Middle East, the present conflict is at its heart a battle between a liberal democracy and a fascist dictatorship. It should be no trouble to figure out which side is in the right.

    I know which side I'm on. The divide is so clear today.


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