Monday, January 19, 2015

Statement of Conviction - Revisiting a Friend

Just under two years ago, I joined Christian Peacemaker Teams (CPT). After a month of intensive training, all of us trainees were asked to write a Statement of Conviction, professing in our own words our commitment to nonviolence as we began our work with CPT.

When I wrote my statement, I'm not sure I realized  that it would guide me for life, or if I did know that, I wasn't aware of what it meant. I'm certain that two years later, I still have a lot of learn about the commitment I made, but I am at least more aware that, regardless of when I complete my work with CPT, I truly have made a lifelong commitment to nonviolence. I cannot imagine anything that would turn me away from it. In fact, I feel like somewhere in my statement, I should have included "for better or for worse, for richer or for poorer, in sickness and in health, until death do us part."

There is a part of me that wishes I had included some asterisks with fine print listing the times I'd be exempted from trying to live by my high ideals. Trying to figure out the most loving and justice-focused action in small-scale interpersonal dynamics as well as in large-scale global ones is not easy.

Thankfully, there are many people, like the one we honor today, who have walked the path before me and many others who are walking it right alongside me today. We're not meant to do this alone. (Can I get an "Amen"?)

In honor of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day, and with the humble request that you help me to live up to what I've written, I share my Statement of Conviction:

Statement of Conviction

When I taught high school theology, I used to give my Catholic Social Teaching students a list of justice-focused quotations to reflect upon. One quote I used comes from Joan Baez:

I would say I'm a nonviolent soldier. In place of weapons of violence, you have to use your mind, your heart, your sense of humor, every faculty available to you...because no one has the right to talk the life of another human being.  

I, like Baez, would consider myself a nonviolent solider. I do not believe that I, or anyone else, have the right to kill another person. I have been involved in peace and justice advocacy, sometimes peripherally, sometimes directly, for many years. Recently, I have felt the call to make a more sustained commitment to peacemaking. I must put not just my money, but everything I have, my whole being – hands, feet, brain, heart – where my mouth is.

Joining Christian Peacemaker Teams is one step in making this commitment. I am aware of the dangers I may face, but this awareness does not overshadow my trust in possibilities. I trust that if enough people believe in and work for peace, someday it will be not simply a possibility, but a reality. My trust in possibilities and my conviction that nonviolence is the only means to achieve peace give me the strength to walk the walk that I used to talk in the classroom.

I believe that violence only begets more violence. I ask that, in the event that I am taken hostage, no ransom be paid and no violent measures be taken to secure my release. If I am killed, I ask that no retribution be sought, but rather that restorative justice be pursued. I ask that any anger stemming from harm done to me be directed not at those who cause me harm, but at the systems that perpetuate cycles of violence. In doing so, I ask that forgiveness and understanding be cultivated, so that such systems may ultimately be transformed from oppressive, destructive structures to creative, life-affirming ones. 

While I do not know God's plan, I believe it will lead us to a collective recognition of the dignity of all people. Loving our neighbors, whoever they may be, is the key to coming to that understanding. By being a nonviolent soldier – standing with, speaking out for, loving my neighbors, wherever they may be – I hope I am contributing to the greater Love that currently eludes our world.*

Cory Lockhart
Louisville, KY
29 January 2013

*In an effort to give credit where it is due, let me say that I may have borrowed or modified language from other statements given to us as examples, though I don't remember now if or what I borrowed/modified. (If I did, I suspect it was language in the paragraph about not using violence on my behalf). I looked at the other statements that I still have and my language is less like them than I had imagined, but I don't want to claim I was the original writer of every word above when I'm not sure if that's accurate. 

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