Statement of Conviction
7 June 2008
People confuse certainty with conviction, optimism with hope, and power with strength. As I contemplate my choices and communicating them with my closest friends, I want to speak and think with clarity and specific intention.
Certainty is very like flying. We all wish for it. We’ve had dreams or fleeting moments where we believed we were experiencing it. We love the idea of it. But the truth is, we’re not built for either flying or certainty. We are rarely certain of anything. Instead, we live convinced of what we believe — or we should.
Each day’s mercies are sufficient unto themselves.
Conviction comes from the heart, not the head, and it connects us to others in ways that certainty cannot. Being where there has been so much uncertainty for generations highlights but does not change the truth that we each live without certainty every day.
I believe deeply that practicing non-violence, especially in places where violence has become almost “normal,” is the most powerful witness for the person of Jesus Christ available to each of us who choose to follow him. I don’t believe this practice should have any limits; not even death.
I believe that this particular CPT delegation’s charge is especially shrewd. Peacemaking most often fails when it becomes dismissible as a platitude or an ideal. Collecting stories and building relationships in Kurdish Iraq brings peacemaking back to the human scale, where it cannot be ignored.
Yale University chaplain William Sloane Coffin famously surveyed the future and declared that he was not optimistic, but remained ever hopeful. Even when logic and historical trends make optimism impossible, we may each choose to remain hopeful. Whether it’s from Kurdish families, fellow CPTers, or audiences who later hear what we heard, hope is the key ingredient to growing any human community.
Living with hope and conviction makes us stronger and binds us together in love. The pursuit of power does just the opposite. Whether it’s by violence or wealth or even righteous judgment, power weakens those who wield it, severs connections, and ultimately isolates. The 20th century’s contribution to human progress has been the systematic use of non-violence to accelerate social change: Susan B. Anthony, Mahatma Ghandi, Martin Luther King, Jr., Lech Walesa, Nelson Mandela.
It’s a great time to be alive! By living with conviction, hope and strength, we each can express love for those around and after us, embody those very mercies that are so sufficient, and stand against the modern lures of certainty, optimism, and power.