Common security

Daily Reading for May 26 • Memorial Day

Said de Tocqueville, “America is great because America is good. If she ceases to be good, she ceases to be great.” With less power, we Americans will be better able to be good, both to ourselves and to others. I have great confidence in America. We are still a young country, with lots of raw energy. We’re a country of immigrants, whose sons and daughters still harbor a love for the impossible task. Yet we must change the national imagination, shed our self-righteousness, rid ourselves of our macho love of weapons inherited from our macho frontier past. It is time now to honor the countless Americans who have died in wars they shouldn’t have been asked to fight, wars that might have been avoided, settled by negotiations—honor them by putting an end to the vainglory, the blunderings, and the carnage that cost them their lives.

American churches can contribute enormously by seeing how pathologically dysfunctional war is rapidly becoming. Let them affirm the psalmist’s contention that “the war horse is a vain hope for victory, and by its great might it cannot save” (33:17). Churches have a special obligation to point out that “God’n’country” is not one word, and to summon America to a higher vision of its meaning and destiny.

Churches all over the world must see to it that nonviolence becomes a strategy not only for individuals and groups, but one taught to governments. If arms reductions are to become more likely and wars less so, then new measures have to be devised for conflict resolution. . . . Mediation must become the order of the day. Every nation should abandon its claim to be a judge in its own cause. Nations must learn to listen to one another, to affirm the valid interests of adversaries, to cease judgmental propaganda, to heed international law. We must replace the concept of national security with that of common security, an understanding that the security of countries cannot be imagined separately, for none is really secure until all are secure.

From “Beyond War” in A Passion for the Possible: A Message to U.S. Churches by William Sloane Coffin (Westminster John Knox Press, 2004).

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