Given the plurality of political organizations throughout the U.S.A. many can be found that have ethical concerns or philosophies. One can find an institute for alcoholic studies in American Indian culture, immigration centers for Soviet Jews coming from Soviet Georgia, legal organizations which attempt to aid emigrant farm workers in Texas, and all manner of society institutes very narrowly defined in scope. This is also the case with organizations who desire peace or what may be called peace movements. I have friends who lobby for underground Hungarian peace movements, friends who work for peace in Jamaica by supporting certain Catholic Worker groups, and friends who support Solidarity in Poland by sending food to families and money to Church officials.
One unifying element of many of these groups (and certainly others) is their specificity in attempting to achieve rather penultimate and limited goals. I consider part of this sentiment which has become procedural to be a result of the Aquarian Age. That was the period of the early 1960s and even ’70s when many young Americans (myself included) sought peace, liberation, freedom, and justice for all humanity. The vastness of such a philosophy sounds naive and simplistic now, but I believe that it was important at the time. Many were very reluctant to divest certain political institutions of any power (the Cold War scare) and they were apprehensive about outright attacks on the system. Only anarchists and communists marched in peace rallies. At least this was the conviction. No, an all-encompassing, cosmic humanism was necessary to wean ourselves (Americans) from a specific bureaucracy in order to recall the values of the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution of the United States.
The Declaration speaks of the equality of all the rights of life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. The Constitution speaks of such universal concepts as establishing justice, insuring tranquility, promoting the general welfare, and securing the blessings of liberty. Even the Charter of the United Nations begins with the statement: “We, the peoples of the United Nations, determined to save succeeding generations from the scourge of war . . .” Thus, the Aquarian Age was not foolishly fascinated with peace for all. It has been part and parcel of the very establishment of the government of the U.S.A.
The organizational peace movements in the 80s have been averted more from universal peace to particular peace. The Constitution speaks of peace and tranquility and yet we have Vietnam. The movement, then, after the 70s has become more politicized.
Two major groups in the States are Pax Christi and Amnesty International. They both serve to explicate what I mean by a specifically politicized movement. Pax Christi is concerned with peace by being involved in the armaments race. These people worked to ban the development of the B-1 bomber. They have worked to lobby against the sale of AWAC aircraft to other nations. They campaign to prevent the sale of fissionable material (Plutonium and Uranium) to other countries. They seek to remove any nuclear weapons from Western Europe. Most of all (in recent times) they have campaigned for unilateral disarmament of nuclear weapons on the part of the U.S.
The second major peace group is Amnesty International. In this society (I am a member) we are concerned with the free political expressions of all citizens. This means quite simply, the human right to conscientious objection. The task involved is research to prove that there exist political prisoners and to document their conditions throughout the world. We publicize our findings and work hard (by letter campaigns) to procure the release of specific prisoners about whom we have information. We oppose “prisoners of conscience.” These are people who are incarcerated for reasons of race, religion, of political persuasion.
Both of these groups, Pax Christi and Amnesty International (AI), are international in scope and in membership. AI was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize in 1977. Many Catholic universities throughout the world have local chapters. This is the case here at Loyola University of Chicago.
As far as organization is concerned, the students actively participate in meetings as do faculty members. The group has one faculty advisor and a student advisor. These persons help to prepare meetings, call speakers, enlist the aid of other agencies and monitor demonstrations and other politically geared activities. Each chapter has a membership committee which helps to establish policy, procedures, and goals of that chapter. It is made up of student and faculty.
The real causes of war and human strife can be attributed to economic injustice, human alienation, lack of personal fulfillment, greed, the insatiable desire for power, original sin, and quite simply the presence and experience of evil. No one peace movement is able to eradicate these problems. This simple insight is the new political consciousness of the 80s in America.
My criticism is that many people in various peace movements continue to act politically as though they will be able to bring about those universal concepts of justice and peace. As a Christian ethicist, I am more theologically aware of the limitations of human good alone. The alleviation of all human suffering is our obligation and desire as well as world peace. True peace, however, and not simply the absence of war comes only from God. Therefore, an increase in the politicization of young people is necessary not to bring universal peace, but to inhibit war.
All peace movements lack the new consciousness that I speak of. Many still cry out, march, and seek television coverage to proclaim the need for peace. We all want peace. It is just that some desires and ambitions run counter to the universal hope for peace. The task of the peace seeker is not to shout at politicians nor to lie in front of tanks. These visual tactics were effective in the 60s, but no more. We must be politicized and have a base which will help to prohibit open conflict and war.
Demonstrations, discussions, documents, ethics courses, and sensitivity training are not sufficient. We do not need a love consciousness that will simply melt tanks into parks and turn rifles into roses. That is not a mature politicized Christian vision. To inhibit open violent conflagration one does not simply distribute flowers and appeal to abstract concepts. We must become politicized to the point that we have power to prevent conflagration. Letter writing is important, but economic boycott is more effective. Economic forces do more to prevent war than all the moral sanctions and hand-slapping of the United Nations. The concern of all American Christians must be a new politicized consciousness and eager desire to be a part of the political process.
Being political seems to be very difficult for most of my students. They feel weak and ineffective. They are most pessimistic and critique as though from a distance that which shapes their lives at this very moment. I have had some success in increasing their political awareness of peace by winning coals of a small nature. If we can bring one Haitian into a family or bring a Soviet Jew to Chicago and a new job they see that something can be done.
The important point is that human rights or peace simply do not come about as automatically as a geyser from the earth. The new politicized consciousness enables Christians to be political and effect change. Peace is not an abstract universal, but a particular that one finds here or there. It is not a condition, however, much like fair weather that simply happens to people. Peace is like a liturgy, it does not simply happen. People make music, song, dance, prayer, and worship. People make peace.