The following was written for the 34th ANNUAL FORTY DAY FAST for the TRUTH OF GOSPEL NONVIOLENCE by Rev. Emmanuel Charles McCarthy on Sunday, August 7, 2016.
The Notre Dame Student Peace conference is an annual conference organized by students for students. Its mission is to provide space for undergraduate and graduate students to engage in dialogue on important issues related to peacebuilding, social justice, and global issues.
This video was posted by Shelley Douglass on Facebook. She writes:
“This video is made of actions taken at Notre Dame University during the Viet Nam war – the Notre Dame resistance, which sponsored marches and a Resistance Mass at the foot of touchdown Jesus. Members of the resistance turned in their torn-up draft cards at the offertory procession. The celebrant was Archbishop Thomas Roberts of England, with Fr Dave Burrell CSC and others. The background music is the Missa Luba, which was a constant accompaniment to our lives those days. We were so full of hope! We’re a bit battered, but many of us (those who are still alive) keep up the struggle. (Tim McCarry, Presente)!”
I wasn’t alive back then but I am very interested in keeping these memories alive. So many Catholics my age (37) have no idea that any of this ever happened, that there was such as thing as resistance to war grounded in Catholic teaching. What happened? You won’t see much of this on Catholic campuses these days! Now the most “Catholic” campuses are probably the most pro-war. Seems to me this was a sort of golden age before the Catholic consciousness about issues of war and peace became completely warped by the American civic religion, before the question of war and peace was reduced to mere “politics” and “policy,” when these questions were wrestled with religiously and earnestly and philosophically and humanely, before the public debate about war and peace had to be filtered through a strict “neocon” or “theocon” lens. But my perception is probably off. Of course the mainstream public back then probably saw the war much the same as the mainstream public sees “The War” (“on terror”) now — “Communism” and “terrorism” can be used interchangeably and you can play all the same cards in the game of justification.
I really like this video because it shows the protesters as being calm, peaceful, faithful and loving. There is hope and strength. So often these days the protesters from that time are portrayed, in Hollywood films and “60s documentaries” — as drugged out party people who just wanted to drop acid, get high and have a good time. These people are clearly acting out of something more than just teenage rebellion and a desire to subvert.
I’m wondering what Paul and Doug were up to back then. Would you guys have been in these protests if you had attended Notre Dame or would you have been in a different crowd?
The controversy at Seattle Pacific University.
If you want to say the pledge, why do you have to do it in church? That’s not a normal part of most Christian worship services. Why don’t you just stand up afterwards and invite people who want to participate in something patriotic to a small, private service out the by the flagpole, and those who wish to participate in that can then do so?
This is, in fact, what I had to do when I was a part of a peace group in church! We were not allowed to incorporate our prayers for peace into the liturgy, not even on January 1st, which is a feast day in the Catholic Church know as World Peace Day — not even then! Oh, no. People would get offended, you know! It was too controversial, all this talk about peace in the house of God, who is the Prince of Peace. We were relegated to an outside gathering after church at the peace pole, and those who wanted to join us, could. We were allowed to stand up after Mass and invite people to come join us in a rosary. Most people were more interested in brunch, of course. But our peace group, being peaceful, did not complain.
What is funny is that the people at SPU who objected to getting roped into participating in some kind of collective patriotic expression in a sacred space are being branded the whiny, too easily offended liberal sort; but isn’t it just as whiny to say that you are offended when other people wish not to participate in your honor ceremonies and theatrics that have nothing to do with worship of God, which is what a church is for? When people say, “No thanks” to this kind of thing, and object to it being foisted upon them, those people who want everyone to join in their patriotic ritual become apoplectic with righteous indignation!
As we’ve always said at CAM, Christian churches should be preserved as sacred spaces. We applaud the folks at SPU who had the courage to speak out and we hope this is a sign that after more than a decade of war, Christians are finally starting to get tired of this kind of thing and are going to start speaking out more and saying, “Enough already.”
Here is a good article at USCatholic.org about the recruiting tactics of the military that are allowed in Catholic schools.
“Halt the Military Invasion of Catholic Schools,” by Pat Elder
“Old words that used to mean something—ideals, meaning, character, self, soul—have come to seem mere floating signifiers, counters in a game played by commencement speakers and college catalogs. Vague and variable as their meanings may have been, there was a time when the big words of the humanities still carried weight. They sustained yearnings and aspirations; they sanctioned the notion that the four-year transition from adolescence to adulthood might be a time of exploration and experiment.
This idea has not disappeared entirely, but the last time it flourished en masse was forty years or so ago, in the atmosphere pervaded by the antiwar counterculture. Indeed one could argue that the counterculture of the 1960s and early ’70s involved far more than the contemporary caricature of sex, drugs, and rock ’n’ roll. It was in part a creation of young people who wanted to take college education seriously, to treat it as more than mere job training. Beneath the slogans and excess, the counterculture contained a probing critique of the instrumentalist mentality that managed the Vietnam War—the mad perversion of pragmatism embodied in the American major’s words: “it became necessary to destroy the town in order to save it.” Writers like Albert Camus, Martin Buber, and Dietrich Bonhoeffer may have been more often cited than read by young people in the 1960s and ’70s, but those writers’ presence in countercultural discourse suggested the urgent question at its core: How can we live an ethical life amid the demands of illegitimate power?”
“The Liberal Arts vs. Neoliberalism,” Commonweal, April 20, 2015
I wish I had heard even one homily like this on a Sunday in the last 14 years, just one. But I haven’t, which is part of the reason we started this site.
In February, Preacher Randy Beckum carefully and respectfully questioned Americans’ increasing love of militarism, in light of Christian truth. The majority of his sermon consists of quotes from Scripture. He is a soft spoken person. He is not being disrespectful to military personnel, nor is he really making any assertions. He is asking questions, simple questions, basic questions — that is all. He is trying to spur thought, trying to “start a conversation.”
That is too much. It was deemed offensive and disrespectful. He was fired. When the kinds of questions he is asking become too controversial for American Christians to tolerate, I think that is a sign that something is wrong, very wrong. Too many American Christians want certain topics to be considered “off limits,” as in “you can’t go there” or “it is wrong to question this.” Violence and war (and participation in war) is the number one topic that they want deemed “off limits.” It seems quite clear to me that they are afraid of the questions: If you ask the questions, they might lead you to the “wrong” conclusions.
But it is never “wrong” to question anything! Inherent in the Christian faith is an ongoing attitude of self-criticism, self-critique. This applies to both our own souls and our country at large. Our religious leaders garner much praise, love and support when they unite us as Christians (and Americans) by demonizing and vilifying the “other,” whether that “other” be Muslims, liberals, secularists, terrorists, Obama, etc. We feel edified and strengthened through opposition, enmity. But when they urge us to look at ourselves, and within ourselves, we no longer feel united in self-righteousness and mutual admiration and self-congratulatory celebration for our collective awesomeness: We feel disharmony, disagreement, self-doubt, and maybe even if we let ourselves “go there”…shame? guilt? And how can a country stay strong and united if our leaders make us question our own awesomeness? We kill the messenger and feel safer. With that scary voice silenced, we can once again relax, comfortable and settled with our self-justifications.
Sermons like this in civilian life are rare. They are dangerous for the one who delivers them. So, can you imagine a military chaplain giving a sermon like this? All of the pressures that already exist for our religious leaders — pressures to be popular, to be PC, to be accepted and loved by everyone — all of those pressures are only increased exponentially in the even more militaristic culture of the military.
This story apparently became popular over on Reddit, where it made the front page by attracting readers’ attention and receiving over 500 comments. I would like to know what became of this story and whether the Chaplain got his job back, but a quick Google News search shows only exactly one search result: the original story. Apparently, no mainstream media outlets, local or national, have found this story worthy of reporting?
Lawrence Vance posted this over on the LRC blog today:
“For the pregame festivities, the Notre Dame Marching Band took the field and played ‘America the Beautiful.’ As the crowd sang, the PA announcer read the preambles of both the Constitution and the Declaration of Independence. Then the ROTC color guard came onto the field with their flags, and the band played ‘The Star Spangled Banner./ When the song ended, a plane flew overheard, and four Navy Seal skydivers jumped from it, parachuting into the stadium. While the jumpers slowly descended, the PA spoke for several minutes about the virtues of the Navy and its role as ‘a global force for good.’ The PA also noted that the Seals are among the finest warriors in the world and that they are trained to parachute deep behind enemy lines under cover of darkness. As the jumpers came into the stadium, one of them displayed a large American flag. The crowd erupted in applause. At halftime, the Michigan Marching Band joined the celebration, dedicating its entire halftime show to war. The band started with ‘The Star Spangled Banner’ (again), which the PA said was in recognition of America’s ‘victory in the War of 1812.’ Then the band played ‘When Johnny Comes Marching Home,’ in remembrance of World War II. The show ended with ‘The Battle Hymn of the Republic,’ which featured the display of a 20-yard-long American flag. During a timeout in the third quarter, the Navy Seal skydivers came onto the field, along with two naval officers dressed in their white uniforms. The PA introduced each of the jumpers by name, and the commanding officer was presented with a Notre Dame football helmet as a gift. The PA asked everyone to thank the Seals, along with all military personnel, for their service in protecting our freedom and keeping America safe every day. The crowd erupted in applause.
See also: Bullsh*t Train to Jingotown