Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

Message of Fear or of Faith?

Earlier this week the “No-War in Iran Coalition” held an event at our church, which we co-sponsored through our Peace and Justice Committee. The two speakers for the event were both men whom I had known of before. Scott Ritter is a former Marine officer, and a former Senior United Nations Weapons inspector, and was in charge of the inspections in Iraq prior to the run up to the war. You might remember that he resigned his position in protest, and spoke Scott Ritter and Ambassador Ed Peck at UCEbefore the U.S. Congress in what was a very morally courageous move.

The other speaker was Ambassador Edward Peck, a career State Department officer with decades of experience in the middle-east, including being the Chief of Mission in Iraq, and head of the Terrorism Task Force under the Reagan Administration.

Now, I’m not going to comment on the substance of their analysis and prediction involving the relationship between the U.S. and Iran… first as an officer myself it is not my place, and second you can do a quick Google search and look it up yourself. I will just say that I found their presentation compelling.

I also found it disturbing, and I am afraid that it will not have the effect of mobilizing the anti-war movements that they might intend it to. I found their message, presented to a packed crowed of around 500 in our sanctuary, to be based in fear, in anger, in threatening language, and in near end-of-the-world apocalyptic revelations. While that might motivate some, I am afraid that it will cause more people to stick their head in the sand and continue the creation of an apathetic American public… not just on this issue, but on almost all issues.

Ritter himself has been harshly critical of the peace movements of the past few years for their ineffectiveness, and I think his critiques are valid. However, I found his presentation to be a symptom of the same disease. I have nothing but respect for his analytical ability, and will readily admit he has been right more often than he has been wrong. And with him I do pray he is wrong this time.

In a conversation prior to the event, Mr. Ritter and I spoke about our shared military service. He and Ambassador Peck had just given a short presentation about finding the “turn of phrase” or “style” generic imitrex side effects that would capture the hearts and minds of the American people. As we talked, he asked why I had gone from a fellow intelligence analyst to the liberal faith ministry.

Myself and Ambassador Peck, after the eventThough this was not the time to recount the story of my call, I did use the moment to make an answer to the question he and Ambassador Peck asked… I believe that it will be a message of hope and vision for the future based in faith that will capture the hearts, minds, and spirits of people to transformative change for the world. Not one based in fear.

The message I am seeing within our liberal faith movement and seeking in the wider world is not one focused on one issue (no matter how dire) but rather one that consists of a broad shift in the nature of society, of our perception of reality, and of how we are to be together in this world. Rather than warning of impending military action against a country, the message I am seeing and seeking will inspire us to completely re-think how our young men and women in uniform are employed and deployed… transform them into defenders of peace.

The message I am seeing and seeking will call us as a nation not to seek to maintain our sole super power status, but will allow other nations to rise to a level of equality and truly become “world community, with peace, liberty, and justice for all”.

The message I am seeing and seeking will not call on other nations to adopt American democracy and culture, but will rather see and respect the inherent value of their religions, cultures, structures, and societies… and will seek to learn from and be changed by them.

When he asked me why I had gone from an intelligence analyst to the ministry, it was because intelligence work is pretty good at telling you how the world is, but I wanted to vision what the world will be… what it could, what it should, what it must become.

That transformation will not be based in fear, it will not be based in lies, it will not be based upon a foundation of a message of end-of-the-world predictions… but only on a foundation of Faith, Hope, and Love. .

Yours in Faith,


2 Thoughts on “Message of Fear or of Faith?

  1. David,

    Since I was involved in this presentation and as a member of the UCE Peace & Justice Program, I’d like to respond to your thoughtful comments on the Ritter event.

    We’ve spoken about this balancing act in the past.
    More dialogue is always helpful. I think there’s
    parallel paths that ultimately get us into the same
    place: the “activist” path and the “peace-affirming”
    path (I know I’m choosing simple words for complex
    positions). The first is the short-term What To Do
    NOW; the second is the long-term This Is What We Do
    for the future.

    The Peace movement cannot simply wait for the
    evolution you speak of to occur; sadly, too many
    people will die in the meantime. But without the
    long-term evolution occuring, we will continue to wage
    this struggle over and over and over. It’s somewhat
    similar to the discussion about holding soup kitchens
    vs. long-term solutions to the hunger issue in
    America. Haven’t you spoke up for those who do the
    soup kitchens because people are hungry NOW and for
    those who want to change economic policy to prevent
    hunger in the future. Why is this not the same dual

    The people in the audience were by and large
    activists. The presenters knew their audience and
    addressed their remarks to their audience, which is
    what any good speaker should do. These are the folks
    who will be doing the challenging work of stopping
    another war and they need to have clarity about these
    immediate goals. I certainly heard that clarity in
    the parts that I was able to listen to. As I have listened to the feedback from activists and non-activists, I realized that while they had different emotional responses to what they heard, they had similar intellectual responses, i.e. we have to prevent a new war on Iran, which is indeed a real possibility. So, Ritter and Peck achieved that goal of educating their audience. It is not clear that they reached the goal of empowering their audience.

    I find myself trying to be in both worlds that you
    speak of and it’s a good place to be, as I see the
    benefits of both. Rather than viewing these two paths
    as divergent, I see them as convergent. I think your
    vision of the future for our country and for the world
    is beautiful and very well stated. I’m sure you speak
    for all of us and quite eloquently I will add. I
    think we’re just addressing different parts of the
    same solution rather than working on paths that are
    divergent of each other.

    Thank you for the opportunity to respond and I look
    forward to working more so with you in the future as
    we try to find our ways through all of this.


  2. Mary,

    As always you are a good foil for my thoughts on Peace and Justice…

    I will simply say that I think the church is called to creating the vision of the future that will inspire people to a world transformed… And that there will be plenty of people working towards opposing or ending particular wars.

    We’ve discussed this before as the difference between being an Activist and being a Prophet.

    Thank you for the engaging conversation as always, my friend.

    Yours in faith,


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