Pilgrim Pathways: Notes for a Diaspora People

Incarnational Discipleship

Anti-Death Penalty Organizations in the U.S.

I.  Faith-Based Groups

II. National Organizations

III. State Groups


May 29, 2011 Posted by | capital punishment, civil rights, ethics, human rights, nonviolence, political violence, violence | 4 Comments

I Dream of a Progressive U.S. South: Social Justice in Dixieland

I have many dreams and hopes:  for my family (including my wonderful daughters), for the global Church, for the health of my nation and the world.  I’m a dreamer and my first decade of life (1962-1972) was an era that both nurtured such dreams and showed me the price that achieving them would cost–and that setbacks and failures are inevitable.  Among my dreams that often seems delusional to others is a dream of a progressive U.S. South.  How long will the poison that produced the Old Confederacy still produce its deadly fruit in the Southern U.S? (Geography for those readers not from these shores:  On a map of the U.S.A., the “South” or “Old South” encompasses Virginia, West Virginia [which separated from Virginia because it refused to secede from the Union during the Civil War], North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, Mississippi, Louisiana, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Arkansas, and Texas.)

Even liberal friends tell me this is delusional? Hasn’t the South always been a bastion of conservatism, even regression? It gave fought to keep slavery when the rest of the country moved on. It committed treason and rebelled in a bloody Civil War mostly for the right to continue keeping slaves and to expand that right Westward.  After Reconstruction, it produced an apartheid system known as “Jim Crow segregation” in which African-Americans were wage slaves and subjected to the most profound humiliations–and lynched by the hundreds every year. It pretended to “elevate” (white) women by placing them on pedestals–while depriving them of property rights, often beating them with impunity behind closed doors in marriage, “educating” them mostly for domestic life, and treating their brains as nonexistant.  The South remains the most militarized, least educated (despite many fine universities), and one of the poorest sections of the nation.  It is hostile to organized labor and, thus, wages are low and workers exploited.  How can I dream of a progressive South, of a Dixieland in which social justice flourishes?

Well, for one thing, I have seen waves of reform sweep the South even in my lifetime–and know of other such waves in history.  When I was born, the U.S. Civil Rights Movement, the struggle for Black Freedom and Equality against Jim Crow segregation, had already been underway for a decade. The decade that followed saw its greatest successes, some setbacks, and the end of legal apartheid in this country.  When I was born, there were still many “whites only” signs across Dixie. Before my 10th birthday, they were all gone.  The South fought the changes–but not all of it.  Many of the whites involved in the Movement were Southerners–including my parents.  The struggle to end the Vietnam War had many champions in the South–the region of the country with more military academies than any other and in which military service is practically worshipped.  The women’s rights movement had numerous Southern chapters.  The environmental movement, which flourished in the 1970s, had some of its strongest champions in the South–including Kentucky’s treasure, Wendell Berry. (Rachel Carson, whose Silent Spring, sparked the environmental movement, was from Pennsylvania and lived in Maryland, states bordering the South which are often populated by ex-Southerners, including Carson’s parents, who leave Dixie for economic reasons.)

The South gave us most of the leaders of the Civil Rights movement–not just the major African American leaders like Martin Luther King, Jr., James Farmer, Andrew Young, John Lewis, Fannie Lou Hamer, Dorothy Cotton,  Pauli Murray, and many others, but some of the strongest white leaders, too, including Myles Horton of Tennessee, Will D. Campbell of Mississippi and Tennessee, Clarence Jordan of Georgia, Ann and Carl Braden of Kentucky, Virginia Durr of Alabama, Glenn Smiley of Texas, and Bob Zellner of Alabama.

Even in electoral politics, the South’s record has not been one of unmitigated conservatism and injustice.  Consider the following few examples:

  • Ralph Yarborough (1903-1996) was a U.S. Senator from Texas (1957-1971) who was a leader in the liberal wing of the Democratic Party.  He had run as an unabashed liberal for TX governor for years (1952-1956), coming close, but never quite winning that office, but won the U.S. Senate in a special election in 1957. He immediately refused to sign the “Southern Manifesto” which pledged support for segregation. In fact, Yarborough was one of the few Southerners in Congress to vote for the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  A veteran himself, he worked to strengthen and expand the G. I. Bill of Rights (one of the major pieces of legislation that expanded university education in this country beyond the monied elites).  (Incidentally, Yarborough’s opponent in 1964 was George H. W. Bush, who attacked Yarborough for his Civil Rights votes and used racebaiting ads throughout the campaign. Yarborough was a true liberal, but he was also a tough politician and replied by painting Bush as a rich Yankee carpetbagger from the Northeast who was trying to buy a Senate seat. He also accused Bush (correctly) of being to the right of that year’s Republican presidential candidate, Senator Barry Goldwater of Arizona and (incorrectly) of cheering the assassination of President Kennedy! (Yarborough had been in the Dallas motorcade in 1963 and was saved from the assassination which killed Kennedy by Secret Service agent Rufus Youngblood. Yarborough announced Kennedy’s death at the hospital to reporters in tears with the words, “Excalibur has sank beneath the waves.”) Yarborough was a strong champion of LBJ’s “Great Society” domestic agenda, including Medicare, Medicaid, and the many programs of the War on Poverty, but he was an early critic of the Vietnam War. In 1968, Yarborough campaigned for Bobby Kennedy until his assassination, then Eugene McCarthey until his defeat in Chicago. When Hubert Humphrey won the nomination, Yarborough urged him to come out quickly for ending the war or risk losing the youth vote, and, thus, the election, to Richard Nixon. Humphrey waited far too long. In 1969, Yarborough became Senate Chair of the Committee on Labor and Public Welfare.  Yarborough lost the 1970 Democratic primary to Rep. Lloyd Bentsen (the last Democratic senator from TX) because he was looking ahead to the general election rematch with George H. W. Bush. (Bentsen beat Bush.) Bentsen, a moderate on social issues, attacked Yarborough for his opposition to the Vietnam War and for not “earmarking” or steering enough patronage projects to TX, saying “it would be nice if Sen. Yarborough voted for his state once in awhile.” Yarborough attempted to make a comeback in 1972, running for TX’s other senate seat against John Tower (R-TX), but lost in the primary. He never again sought public office, but had been a key progressive voice from the South during a crucial time.
  • Albert A. “Al” Gore, Sr.(1907-1998) was a Democratic U.S. Representative (1945-1953) and U.S. Senator (1953-1971) from Tennessee.  Gore, Sr. began his political life in the New Deal tradition–progressive on issues of economic justice and reformer against establishment “machine” politics and for reform in keeping corruption and outside influence out of politics. He began as a moderate on issues of racial justice.  He refused to sign the “Southern Manifesto” upholding segregation (despite much arm-twisting by arch-segregationist, Dixiecrat, and, later, Republican Strom Thurmond of South Carolina), but he did not vote for the Civil Rights Act of 1964–although he did vote for “cloture,” breaking the months-long filibuster and allowing the bill to be voted through on the senate floor.  (For readers unfamiliar with the U.S. Senate, the “filibuster,” is a procedural move in the rules of the senate whereby a minority, or even a single member, can hold up legislation by refusing to yield the floor. It is probably unconstitutional, since the Constitution clearly indicates that legislation in both houses of Congress is to be decided by simple majorities, but the courts have been reluctant to intrude in the internal rules of the houses of Congress. In 1964, it took fully 2/3 of the Senate to break a filibuster and allow legislation to be voted on. The requirement was lowered in the ’70s to 60 votes, but in some ways the process is more susceptible to obstruction than ever since one no longer needs to be physically on the floor speaking, but just vote against cloture. In this way, in recent years, the Republican minority has blocked numerous pieces of legislation and uncounted presidential appointments by requiring that nearly every vote on every matter require a supermajority of 60! The modified filibuster is so overused today that the U.S. Senate is currently dysfunctional as a legislative body!) Gore, perhaps influenced by his children, did vote for the Voting Rights Act of 1965. He was also a loud voice against the Vietnam War.  This made him vulnerable to the Nixon “Southern strategy” in which Republicans grew in the South by winning over whites who left the Democratic Party after LBJ pushed through the Civil Rights legislation of the 1960s. Gore, Sr. lost in 1970 to Republican Bill Brock after Nixon’s Vice President Spiro Agnew (later indicted for tax evasion!), traveled to TN and accused Gore of being the “Southern Regional Chair of the Eastern Liberal Establishment.”
  • Claude Pepper (1900-1989), born in Alabama, worked in a steel mill before graduating from the University of Alabama and Harvard Law School. He moved to South Florida, served in the state legislature and was elected to the U. S. Senate as a Democrat in 1936 and serving until 1951. He was a left-liberal and a champion of the elderly.  He was a New Dealer and a strong Southern ally of FDR. He pushed for Lend-Lease, which allowed the U.S. to ship arms to the UK to resist the Nazis.  He was a progressive on racial issues, an early supporter of universal healthcare. He was lukewarm in his support for Harry Truman in 1948, telling Democrats they should nominate the (then-independent) Dwight D. Eisenhower, instead. (History might have been very different if Eisenhower had entered politics as a Democrat!) Pepper’s downfall in the Senate was his promotion of friendship with the USSR, which included some naive statements about Stalin. Defeated in 1950, Pepper was elected to the U.S. House of Reps. in 1962 and survived several redistrictings, serving in the House from 1963 to 1989, one of the very few modern Senators to serve in the House AFTER a senate career. In the House, Pepper was a liberal champion of international relations, human rights, and of the elderly, pushing successfully for several laws strengthening Medicare and Social Security. (Republicans joked that, along with Speaker Tip O’Neill, Pepper was one of the few Democrats who absolutely drove Ronald Reagan crazy–particularly because he often lost to them!)
  • J. William Fulbright (1905-1995), born in Missouri was a Democratic U. S. Senator from Arkansas from 1945-1975.  He was the longest serving chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.  Fulbright was a graduate of the University of Arkansas (1925) and a Rhodes Scholar to Oxford University (Pembroke College) graduating with degree in comparative politics in 1928. He earned his law degree from George Washington University and went to work in the anti-trust division of the Justice Department, an ardent New Dealer.  He served one term in the House of Representatives (1942-1944) where he promoted internationalism including sponsoring the legislation that would create the United Nations. Elected to the U.S. Senate in 1948, Fulbright promoted a vigorous U. S. internationalism and worked for world peace. He created the Fulbright Fellowships run by the State Department to sponsor U.S. students studying around the world and international students studying in the United States, convinced that cultural and educational exchanges helped to promote international understanding and peace–and that U.S. isolationism during the 1920s and 1930s had been a major factor leading to World War II.  Fulbright was not initially progressive on race issues. He signed the Southern Manifesto opposing the Suprme Court decision Brown v. Board of Education in 1954 and opposed the Civil Rights bills of 1957, 1964, and the Voting Rights Act of 1965.  But the events of the Civil Rights movement changed him, especially the assassinations of John and Robert Kennedy and of Martin Luther King, Jr. He went to King’s funeral and repented of his opposition to Civil Rights and came home to Arkansas and said so–even while most white Arkansans were cheering King’s death.  Fulbright helped expand and renew the Civil Rights Act during the Nixon Administration (even gathering enough votes to override a veto) and led the successful opposition to 2 Nixon nominees for the Suprme Court (Clement Haynsworth and Harold Carswell) who openly planned on reversing Brown v. Board of Education.  According to historian Arthur Schlesinger, Fulbright was Kennedy’s first choice to be Secretary of State, but JFK became convinced he was too controversial to be confirmed. He was an early and vocal opponent of the Vietnam War and helped to defuse several global crises before they became wars. He opposed the influence of the John Birch Society in the U.S. military and, although he supported the creation of the State of Israel in 1948, he was one of the few American politicians to risk the ire of the pro-Israel lobby by denouncing the huge amounts of money Israel spent influencing American politics–and he was an early champion of a Palestinian state alongside Israel.
  • Ruben Askew (1928-), 37th Gov. of Florida (1971-1979) was part of the “New South” of the post-Civil Rights era–and my favorite governor of my home state when I was growing up.  Born in Muskogee, Oklahoma, when his parents divorced, Askew moved with his mother to Pensacola, FL where he grew up, graduating from Pensacola High School in 1946.  Because his father had been an alcoholic, Askew was a lifelong teatotaler.  He went to Florida State University and FSU’s Law School  and became involved in both houses of the state legislature. He was an early Kennedy supporter from the South and a civil rights proponent.  When elected as Gov. of Florida in 1970 (defeating incumbent Gov. Claude Kirk (R-FL), he ran on a platform saying that “segregation was dead” and a “new South” must emerge which would light the world with equality.  As governor, he supported the controversial use of bussing to achieve the integration of the public schools. Askew appointed Joseph Woodrow Hatchett as the first African-American on the Florida Supreme Court, appointed Athalie Range as Secretary of Community Affairs, the first FL Black since Reconstruction and the first woman ever appointed to head a state agency  in FL. Askew also appointed Jesse McCrary, Jr. as FL Secretary of State in 1978, the first African-American cabinet officer in FL since Reconstruction.  Askew signed numerous laws strenthening FL’s public schools and environmental protections. (Indeed, FL’s public schools rose to 12th in the nation under Askew–and have been falling in quality since the mid’80s.) Although Askew supported the death penalty in theory (he signed FL’s new capital punishment law after Gregg v. Georgia allowed the death penalty to resume), he thought it’s use should be rare and commuted all death sentences to life imprisonment in his term. No one in FL would be executed until Askew’s successor in office, Bob Graham.  Askew was the first FL governor to serve 2 full terms until John Ellis (“JEB”) Bush.  He was thought to be a potential future president and ran unsuccessfully for president in 1984 and for U.S. Senate in 1988.

Other prominent Southern politicians since the 1960s who are at least partially in the progressive tradition include:  Dale Bumpers of Arkansas (Gov. 1971-1975; U.S. Senator, 1975-1999); Jimmy Carter of Georgia (Gov. 1971-1975; 39th Pres. of U.S., 1977-1981; winner of 2002 Nobel Peace Prize); Ann Richards of Texas (1933-2006; Gov., 1991-1995); Doug Wilder of Virginia (Gov. 1990-1995; first African-American governor of VA and first African-American governor of ANY state since Reconstruction; currently Mayor of Richmond); Bill Clinton of Arkansas (Gov., 1979-1981; 1983-1992; President of U.S., 1993-2001) whose “3rd way” centrism frustrated many progressives (including me), but which managed to advance many progressive causes in a very conservative cultural atmosphere (the “culture wars” of the 1990s)–and mostly without a majority in Congress; Al Gore, Jr. of Tennessee (b. 1945; U.S. Rep., 1977-1985; U.S. Senator, 1985-1993; Vice President of U.S., 1993-2000; won the 2000 presidential election but denied office by the bought and paid for Supreme Court of the U.S; co-winner of the Nobel Peace Prize, 2007); Terry Sanford of North Carolina (Gov., 1961-1965; U.S. Senator, 1986-1993); John Edwards of North Carolina (Yes, he is a personal scumbag, but his politics were in the Sanford tradition); John Yarmuth of Kentucky (former newspaper publisher of the weekly alternative newspaper, LEO: Louisville Eccentric Observer, U.S. Rep. from KY’s 3rd District, 2007-current; donates his entire congressional yearly salary to charity).  Others could be multiplied.

The South is also the home of many progressive social change organizations including: Highlander Education Center of Monteagle, TN (formerly, Highlander Folk School), founded in the 1930s by Myles Horton in the 1930s and playing pivotal roles in training labor unions and civil rights workers in nonviolent social change; The Institute for Southern Studies; The Southern Alliance for Clean Energy; The Southern Poverty Law Center (which bankrupted the Ku Klux Klan for a decade by successful lawsuits in the 1980s and ’90s); The Southern Center for Human Rights; The Southern Christian Leadership Conference (SCLC–the organization founded and led by Martin Luther King, Jr.) and many others.

Yes, the U.S. South is the center of labor repression, voter supression, a “business friendly” legal system that promotes ultra-low corporate taxes, weak (and weakly enforced) environmental laws, union-busting “right to work” laws, racism, sexism (including a continued war on women’s reproductive choices, not only abortion, but artificial birth control restrictions, too, in defiance of federal law); heterosexism and homophobia; militarism and uncritical nationalism (and nostalgic worship of a mythical version of the Old Confederacy); denial of religious liberty and promotion of de facto establishment of (certain types of) Christianity; and low taxes eroding public schools, public health, support for persons with disabilities, etc.  But that is not the whole story. In every part of the South there is resistance to these trends, resistance that predates the U.S. Civil War. It works hard to unite across racial, religious, and gender divisions in common struggle.

Because of this, because of the continued presence in the South of those who “seek a newer world,” I continue to dream of a Progressive South characterized by Social Justice.  I hope to live long enough to see this dream come true, but, if not, my children and grandchildren will. For them, the struggle continues.

May 28, 2011 Posted by | testimony | Leave a comment

Christian Hope and Millennial Delusions: A Brief Guide for the Perplexed

Well, here it is, Sunday 22 May 2011, and no one has been “raptured.”  To the surprise of few, Rev. Camping was wrong.  What would surprise many non-Christians having a good laugh right now is that, historically, the majority of Christians have never believed in anything called “the rapture of the elect.”  It is a view which did not even exist in Christianity until the 19th C. when it was invented by a British fundamentalist named John N. Darby and popularized by an American follower named C. I. Scofield.  Scofield attached his particular eschatological and millennial views to his footnotes to the King James Version of the Bible.  Because “the Scofield Reference Bible” became wildly popular as a gift Bible among English speaking conservative Protestants (especially in the United States), and because many readers were unable to distinguish the authority of the Bible from the authority of Scofield’s notes, the heresy begun by Darby, known as Dispensational Premillennialism (or, more briefly, simply as Dispensationalism) became widespread among evangelical Christians.  It is particularly widespread among TV preachers, thereby giving the false impression to non-Christians (and even many Christians) that this is what most or all Christians believe.  It is not.  Not even close.

It is true that Christianity is a thoroughly eschatological faith.  That is to say that mainstream Christian theology has always taken a narrative shape, believing that humans inhabit a Story with a beginning (Creation and Fallenness), middle (“salvation history,” or the many chapters of God’s redemptive work in a broken Creation–seeking to mend, restore, heal, SAVE lost and estranged humanity–and eventually the entire cosmos) and end (the conclusion of story–the End of fallen history in a New/Renewed humanity and Creation).  The details vary from theologian to theologian, biblical interpreter to biblical interpreter.  A few, very liberal, modern Christians have abandoned this belief.  For instance, the theological ethicist James M. Gustafson (1925-), who retired in 1998 after teaching at Yale Divinity School and the Department of Religious Studies of Yale University (1955-1972), the University of Chicago Divinity School (1972-1988) and in the Religious Studies Department of Emory University (1988-1998), eventually adopted the view that there would be no parousia (“return” or “unveiling”) of Jesus Christ, but that the universe would simply continue in entropy and experience heat death some millennia from now–as most astrophysicists believe. (See Gustafson’s Ethics from a Theocentric Perspective, vol. 1.)  But the vast majority of Christians, across denominational and theological differences, live in the general eschatological perspective that I outlined in brief, above.  There are 4 broad variations (and some modern alternatives to be outlined later)–and only one of them entails any concept of a “rapture.”

  1. Classical Premillennialism Sometimes adherents of this view call it “Historic Premillennialism,” but this carries the connotation that this was the earliest (historic) view of the Christian Church from which all others are departures.  My own reading of the writings of the early church (“Patristics”) suggests that some form of amillennialism (see below) is at least as early as Classic Premillennialism, so I want to avoid the impression that only one of these is “historic.”  In this perspective, the general eschatological perspective of which I spoke is assumed.  Christians believe they are in the middle of a Story that began with God’s creation of the universe (by whatever means, taking whatever millennia), continued with human sinfulness and rebellion, and with God’s many attempts–especially in and through the lives and history of the people “Israel,” to reclaim and redeem humanity (and, through them, heal the creation), culminating in the decisive action of God in and through the life, ministry, teaching, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth–proclaimed by Christians as God’s unique Son.  As a whole, Christians believe that a new era was ushered in by Jesus and, thus, that since his life, death, and resurrection, the world has been living in its final age, “the last days.” The end of the old era overlaps the inauguration of the new. But Christians, empowered with the Gift of the Holy Spirit, continue the work of Jesus in proclamation and ministry–awaiting in hope the parousia or “return” (the word actually means “appearing,”) of Christ to usher in the triumphant conclusion of history (the “LAST” of the last days, if you will.) In Classic Premillennialism, passages from the New Testament, especially the Apocalypse (“unveiling”) or Revelation of John, that Christ’s parousia will be followed by a thousand years of peace on earth before the Last Judgment and the end of the old creation for the New Heavens and New Earth.  No rapture. No date setting. Christ can be expected at any time (the Apostle Paul clearly believed in most of his letters that Jesus’ parousia would happen in his lifetime, although in his later prison writings, he does seem to accept that he could die before Jesus’ “return”). Christians are urged to be alert and ready always–and to be found faithful and about their appointed tasks of ministry, work for justice and peace, and proclamation of the Good News of Jesus to all.
  2. Amillenialism. Literally the term means “no millennium,” but this historic view shares much with the one just described. The major exception is that the “thousand year reign” mentioned in Revelation is thought to be symbolic (not referring to a specific time period) and to be taking place now in the age of the Church.  Amillenialists, including St. Augustine of Hippo and almost all the Protestant Reformers (e.g., Martin Luther, John Calvin, Huldrich Zwingli), expect the parousia of Christ and the culmination of history without any thousand-year interlude on earth.  A variation on this, which was especially strong in both the Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic traditions in the Middle Ages, identified the millennial rule of Christ with the political rule of the Church since Constantine united the Church with the imperial power of the Roman Empire in the 4th C. In the West, this was specifically seen as the rule of Christ through the pope, seen as the Vicar of Christ on earth.  In the East, it was more identified with Christian rulers and emperors under the influence of Orthodox bishops, patriarchs, metropolitans, etc.  Some versions of this abandoned belief in a literal return of Christ, but most did not.  Generally speaking, by the high Middle Ages, those who believed the Church needed drastic reform, whether those reformers became Protestant or remained Catholic, were more likely to reclaim a literal return of Christ (in both salvation and judgment) than those who believed Christ was perfectly ruling through the glory of the Church on earth. 
  3. Postmillenialism.  In the post-Reformation era, especially with the rise of the modern missions movement in the 19th C. (16th & 17th Cs. for Anabaptists and Catholics), Christians became optimistic in their hopes. Many believed that Jesus’ parousia would only come after the evangelistic mission of the Church was successful.  The world would convert to Christianity, there would be a thousand years of peace and justice (this number may be literal or symbolic in different versions) and then Jesus would return and wrap up history. 
  4. Dispensational Premillennialism.  John Nelson Darby (1800-1882), a self-taught biblical interpreter, modified the classic premillennial position.  He divided salvation history (and the Bible) into a series of seven (7) periods or “dispensations.” In each of these different ages, God related to humans in different ways (this is part of what makes this a heresy since mainstream Christianity has always believed that God was a God of grace at all times and places).  According to Darby, only in the Church Age was salvation by grace through faith. (He relegated Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount to a future “Kingdom Age”–which meant that Christians could safely ignore it NOW! ) Darby and his followers reinterpreted Christ’s parousia as a “two-stage” Return of Christ.  First, Jesus would return and “rapture” the Church (believers, living and dead) to heaven. Rapture as a theological term (instead of a synonym for “joy” or “ecstasy,”) was invented by Darby in the 1830s. Prior to that time, the term was completely unknown by Christians.  (This view is not only heretical, but a fairly recent heresy!) After the church is “raptured away,” Darby and his followers taught that there would be a “Great Tribulation” in which God allowed many bad things to happen to those “left behind.” Then, Christ will return AGAIN followed by the millennial rule, the last judgment, etc.  Because Jesus specifically PROMISED tribulation to his followers (e. g., John 16:33), some Dispensationalist put the “rapture” in the middle of the Great Tribulation rather than before it. Classic premillennialists and postmillennialists hold that Christ’s return comes after the Tribulation.  Amillennialists tend to think that “tribulation” does not refer to any specific series of events, but to all the sufferings and persecutions of Christians throughout the ages. (Thus, for the perplexed, this is the difference between “pre-tribulationists” (Jesus returns to “rapture” Christians BEFORE tribulation) “post-tribulationists” (Christians must all go through the tribulation prior to Christ’s return) and “mid-tribulationists,” (Christians experience some suffering but get removed before the really rough stuff).  Only Dispensationalists are “pre-trib” or “mid-trib.” Classic premillennialists tend to be post-trib, and all postmillennialists are post-trib. Amillennialists and some classic premillenialists do not see any particular persecution or time of tribulation for Christians as more significant than any other.

Now, Rev. Camping, and most people who set dates or make predictions concerning Christ’s return and/or the end of the world, are Dispensational Premillennialists.  Though loud, they are a distinct minority among Christians–even very traditional or conservative Christians.  It is true that the Apostle Paul thought, for most of his ministry, at least, that he would live to see Jesus’ return. Christians in every century have often felt the same.  But MOST have adhered to Jesus’ saying that no one, not even Jesus the Son (Matthew 24:36) knows when the end will come.  The idea is to live each day as if it could be the last one. There are specific ethical and ministerial consequences:  We are admonished to fulfill our collective and individual callings (proclaiming the gospel, working for justice and peace, visiting the sick and imprisoned, healing and reconciling all we can) without delay.  We are not to sin deliberately–thinking that we can always repent tomorrow.  We are not to live in fear of the future, but trust in the God of the future and present.

Date setting and predictions of the end violate all this.  Belief that Christians will be “raptured away” instead of suffering along with the rest of Creation leads to callousness toward others.  Obsessing over eschatological details–instead of trusting to God and living in the hope of the renewal of all things–is sin–and trivializes the Christian life.

It reduces salvation to “fire insurance” from hell or suffering and leads its adherents to minimize or deny altogether the many teachings in Scripture, especially by Jesus, of care for the poor, for the earth, and work for peace.  After all, in the Dispensational “date setting,” Bible-as-code-book mentality, the world MUST get worse and worse until the “rapture,” then get even worse and eventually be destroyed.  Dispensationalists seldom see any continuity between the current Created order and the promised New Heavens and Earth–so they see all environmental work as “paganism.”  Heresy upon heresy.  And most Christians, even most conservative Protestant evangelicals, are EXTREMELY TIRED of others thinking that they believe this nonsense.  It is a heresy–but one that has convinced much of the non-Christian world (especially in the Western media) that this heresy is mainstream Christian teaching. IT IS NOT.

Rev. Camping is hardly the first date-setter to be disappointed. In 1844, William Miller (1782-1849), a self-taught Baptist preacher led his followers that Jesus would return in 1844. Many sold their property to wait this. The “Great Disappointment” did not result in the end of date-setting. In fact, Miller’s followers formed several later movements, including the Seventh Day Adventists, other Adventist Christians, and the Jehovah’s Witnesses.  Hal Lindsey wrote his Dispensational bestseller, The Late, Great, Planet Earth in 1970.  He predicted an entire series of events leading up to the “rapture” and beyond. When they did not materialize at the predicted dates, subsequent editions of the book revised the dates and/or events–and it continued to be a bestseller no matter how many times Lindsey was proved wrong.  It’s probable that Camping will simply recalculate–as he did after being wrong in 1994. But it is best to leave Dispensationalism and date-setting behind altogether–and concentrate on what we are to do while the world lasts and the Lord tarries.

May 22, 2011 Posted by | eschatology | 3 Comments

Hopes for a Post-Osama bin Laden World

It has taken me a week to process emotions enough to write anything about the killing of arch-terrorist and Al Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden. 

First, I did not rejoice in his death and found the spontaneous celebrations unseemly–and the chants of “U-S-A,” “U-S-A” as if the country had just won a sporting event to be completely inappropriate.  As a Christian pacifist (“Christian” should automatically MEAN “pacifist,” but it hasn’t since Constantine’s shotgun marriage of church and empire, alas) I can rejoice in no one’s death.  I think it is very clear from Scripture that celebrating the death of one’s enemies is nothing short of sinful.  “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles.” Proverbs 24:17.  “Say to them, ‘As surely as I live, declare the LORD God, I take no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but rather that they turn from their ways and live.” Ezekiel 33:11.  “You have heard it said to those of old, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy,” but I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you so that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” Matt. 5:43.  It hasn’t been easy for me to pray for Osama bin Laden these last 10 years, but Jesus gave me no alternative. I could pray for bin Laden or be disobedient to my Lord–there were no third options. 

Nor am I sure that the killing of bin Laden was strictly legal. It involved violating Pakistan’s sovereign territory without their knowledge or permission (which is usually considered an act of war!) and it appears that bin Laden was shot while unarmed and without a chance to surrender.  We are told that he “resisted capture,” but what can that mean for an unarmed man against heavily armed special ops crew?  I would much rather that he have been captured and put on trial–with the evidence of his many crimes (not just 9/11) displayed before the whole world.  New Testament scholar (and former Anglican bishop of Durham) N. T. Wright has callled this killing an example of America’s “Lone Ranger justice,” reminiscent of the old West rather than of respect for the rule of law among nations.  Too often American “exceptionalism” has us holding other nations to standards of international law that we think ourselves above.  It is a major reason why many even of our allies distrust us so.  Rowan Williams, theologian and Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury, has similar misgivings.  (See both reflections here.)

Yet, I must be honest and say clearly that I do not mourn Osama bin Laden’s passing, either. That may be sinful on my part. Perhaps I should mourn the death of any person, no matter how evil their actions. I do not rejoice–but I honestly do feel a sense of relief that he is gone.  Not relief in the sense of “now all threats are gone.” That is foolish. Al Qaeda could launch revenge plots–and one may have been thwarted already.  Violence tends to beget violence in a vicious cycle of death that can be stopped only by nonviolent love–as I realized so long ago when I became a conscientious objector and left the U.S. Army. (To paraphrase Clarence Jordan, Baptist “saint,” “Jesus was heading in one direction and I in the opposite. Yet I claimed to be his follower.”)  Nor do I feel relief in the sense of “closure” that pro-death penalty folks are always saying that murder victims’ loved ones will get by the execution of their killers. (The evidence that the death penalty gives such “closure” is fairly poor.  It seldom, if ever, works that way.)

But the image of Osama bin Laden–as a complex symbol used by many for many different ends–has been hanging over my nation (and others’) for more than a decade and its removal prompts my sense of relief.

Though I disagree with those who claim bin Laden’s killing is a positive good, I hope, with the logic of Romans 8:28 and Gen. 50:20, that God may bring good out of this event. Osama bin Laden’s death may be a “window of opportunity” for the West, and the U.S., and the global Christian Church, all to take new paths. (I would include Muslims, but the “Arab Spring” seems to suggest that many Muslims have already chosen new paths–paths that bin Laden, who so distorted Islam, hated.) Since the attacks of 11 September 2001, we have responded in ways that Osama bin Laden WANTED–we have responded on his terms.  His own videotaped messages outlined his strategy:  Not to defeat the U.S. or the rest of the West militarily, but ECONOMICALLY. He wanted us to spend so much money in useless wars that we would bankrupt ourselves–and he nearly succeeded.  Our national debt (which, at the end of the Clinton era, with the Clinton tax rates, was projected to be eliminated by 2012!) is now somewhere between $10.5 trillion and $14 trillion. The Iraq and Afghanistan wars account for between $4 trillion and $6 trillion of that debt. On top of that is the doubling of the (already huge) military budget these last 10 years, the creation of the huge Department of Homeland Security and the multiplication of spy agencies.  The price of oil was $23 a barrel before  9/11 and people worried that it would become $30 per barrel. Since 9/11 it has averaged $100 per barrel–generating enormous profits for the oil companies, but undermining everyone else’s budgets.

I don’t mean to count the changes in our society for the worse only in economic terms–but that is how bin Laden himself largely thought and expressed himself.  The violence of terrorist attacks was only calculated to do economic harm–and especially to get us to harm ourselves. 

B ut there has been other harm:  We have shifted away from the rule of law–with unlimited detentions of “unlawful combatants,” with torture, with warrantless wiretapping–including of our own citizens.  We have committed 2 wars –one on false pretenses. We have demonized Muslims, including Muslim Americans.  We have encouraged citizens to spy on one another and treat each other with suspicion.  We have militarized our very thought.

With bin Laden’s death can we try to recover and find a new path?  Al Qaeda is gone from Afghanistan (though the Taliban which gave them refuge–and took bin Laden’s money–is still there), but we have over 150,000 troops there. Can we declare victory and come home now? Pres. Obama’s own timeline for the Afghanistan surge was to begin withdrawal in July.  Dare we hope (and can we INSIST) that after 10 years, it is time to withdraw a MINIMUM of 1/3 of the troops home in July and try to have them all home by the end of 2012? We have withdrawn the “combat troops” from Iraq, but can we now remove the 50,000 troops which remain?

Can we cut the military budget in order to reinvest in education, infrastructure, and civilian jobs?

Can we try to end the demonization of Islam and Muslims?  Can we stop connecting immigration policy to terror now and remember that immigrants built this country and that we have no good future if we stop being a place that welcomes immigrants?

Can Christians remember that we are to be a people of love and peacemaking and forgiveness?

I pray that it will be so.

May 8, 2011 Posted by | Uncategorized | 6 Comments

The Freedom Rides: Fifty Years On

Fifty years ago, in the Spring of 1961, a group of courageous Americans seeking racial justice made history with the Freedom Rides, one of the greatest chapters in the U.S. Civil Rights Movement.  Under the Jim Crow laws of segregation, whites and blacks were not allowed to sit together in the South even on interstate transport, such as the buses operated by Greyhound and Trailways bus companies (now merged into one company).  South of Washington, D.C., the bus companies would order black passangers to sit at the back of the bus. When they came into the bus terminals, black passengers were kept from the restaraunts and had to use separate restrooms–where available.  Federal law forbade segregation in interstate transportation, but this was not enforced–even though the Supreme Court had reinforced this in a 1960 decision, Boynton v. Virginia.

CORE: The Congress of Racial Equality, a civil rights organization founded in the 1940s to create a nonviolent mass movement for racial justice, had challenged this pattern with a “Journey of Reconciliation” in 1947 that rode through the upper South, but it had no lasting effect. Now, in the light of the 1960 ruling of Boynton v. Virginia, CORE decided to try again. It recruited volunteers and trained them in the principles of Gandhian nonviolence. Some were African-American, some were white. Some were young and some were old. Some were male and others female.  All were people of incredible courage.  Some, like the young John Lewis (now U.S. Congressional Rep. of Georgia’s 5th District–D), were already veterans of nonviolent struggle. (Lewis, then a student at Fisk University and the American Baptist Theological Seminary, both in Nashville, had been a leader in the student-led Nashville Movement which successfully desegregated the town through disciplined sit-ins in 1960.  Lewis became a leader in the Student Nonviolent Coordinating Committee [SNCC–“Snick”] and remained a leader in the nonviolent freedom movement until joining Bobby Kennedy’s 1968 campaign for the U.S. presidency.) Others were novices.

The idea was simple. CORE chartered two buseses, one Greyhound and one Trailways, and the volunteers would board them in D.C. and sit together in an integrated fashion. When stopping in a terminal, they would test compliance with federal desegregation laws by having integrated groups go into the restrooms and lunch counters together. In the first leg of the trip, the Freedom Riders encountered minor hostilities and isolated incidents. But as news of the trip reached further South, the ire of the KKK and related groups of domestic terrorists was kindled.  Outside Anniston, AL, one bus was firebombed and burned up. In Birmgham, the remaining bus of Freedom Riders was attacked and beaten only two blocks from the sheriff’s office–which did nothing to intervene.  The Justice Dept. evacuated most of the riders to New Orleans.  Lewis called for reinforcements from his Nashville friends in SNCC and they drove down to Birmingham to complete the rides.  The remaining bus made it from Birmingham to Montgomery without incident, but upon arrival in Montgomery, the riders were attacked by a mob of over 1000 whites.  The riders continued into Mississippi, where the violence became even worse. Not only did the police not intervene, they arrested the beaten riders and imprisoned them for weeks in the notorious Parchmen Prison Farm, until federal intervention finally freed them. Other Rides continued in solidarity, spreading beyond the bus stations to train stations and airports throughout the South.  The campaign ended in November 1961 when the Interstate Commerce Commission issued new rules preventing segregation in transportation facilities and enforcing them.

On 16 May, the PBS progam, The American Experience, will run a special tribute at 9 P.M. “Freedom Riders.”  A DVD of the program can be ordered from PBS.com for $19.99.  I urge readers of this blog to check it out.

Segregation, America’s version of legal apartheid, was a very dark chapter in the history of this nation–and it still leaves ripples to the present.  We need to look at our past in order to understand our present.  Our young people need especially to learn this and other stories like it. I hope parents will watch this with their children and that screenings will be scheduled for youth groups, too.

Thank-you, Freedom Riders, for your part in transforming our nation to a somewhat freer and more just society.

May 6, 2011 Posted by | civil rights, History, human rights | Leave a comment

Pioneer Evangelical Feminist Nancey Hardesty Dies: Rest in Peace

In 1974, the evangelical publisher, Word Books, published a groundbreaking work, All We’re Meant to Be: Biblical Feminism for Today by Nancey A. Hardesty and Letha Dawson Scanzoni.  My mother, an evangelical Methodist and a budding feminist in 1974, brought home a copy.  About a year later, I read it and it changed my views on the equality of sexes (in home, church, and society) forever.  Word Books eventually went out of business, but two other publishers published new editions of this classic and Hardesty and Scanzoni, together with their friend, Virginia Ramey Mollenkott, went on to found the Evangelical Women’s Caucus which later became the Evangelical and Ecumenical Women’s Caucus and helped to publish Daughters of Sarah from 1974 to 1995–the first journal for Christian feminists.

Today, after 2 years battling pancreatic cancer, Nancey Hardesty has passed away.  The Christian Century has more details here.

Although my daughters have grown up in a very different environment (their mother is an ordained Baptist minister, our pastor is another Baptist minister and they have known numerous women preachers and theologians, as well as living in a world where more and more countries are led by women and 3 of the last 4 Secretaries of State in the U.S. have been women), I have still urged them to read All We’re Meant to Be in their teens.

I will mourn Hardesty’s passing, but even more I will mourn that U.S. evangelicals are less open to biblical feminism TODAY than they were in the 1970s–or so it seems.

May 4, 2011 Posted by | obituaries | 5 Comments

Colleges/Universities with Peace Studies Programs

On my former blog, Levellers, I posted a list of Christian colleges and universities in the U.S. with peace studies programs.  Many found it useful and people emailed me with additions and links to other lists.  Here is an updated list that includes more than specifically Christian institutions and is not restricted to the United States.  This post will become a link on the “Peace Groups” page so that it will remain easily accessible.  As a father of a high school student considering majoring in peace studies, I know that this resource could be helpful to many, including pastors, youth ministers, parents, and guidance counselors–as well as those considering such studies themselves. [Update: Molly graduates high school on Friday, near the top of her class, 3.905 GPA in the International Baccalaureate program at J. M. Atherton High School. In the Fall, Molly will matriculate at Eastern Mennonite University (see below) where she will major in Peacebuilding and Development, possibly double-majoriing in Spanish, and EMU even considers her a likely candidate for the 5 year M.A. in Peace and Conflict Studies through their Center for Peacebuilding and Justice! She wants to work for the United Nations, Amnesty International, the Carter Center or similar work. I am a very proud father!]  MLW-W

Colleges & Universities in with Peace Studies Programs

U. S. Programs:

Abilene Christian University (Abilene, TX) is a Christian university related to the conservative wing of the  Stone-Campbell movement.  All branches of that movement promoted gospel nonviolence at their origins, but most in all branches have lost that heritage.  I hope ACU is recovering it with it’s program.   It offers an M.A. in Conflict Resolution and Reconciliation.

Agnes Scott College (Atlanta, GA) is a women’s liberal arts college related to the Presbyterian Church, USA.  It offers a minor in Human Rights which can be added to any major, but would especially compliment an Agnes Scott B.A. in International Relations, Political Science, Philosophy, Religious Studies, or Women’s Studies.

American University(Washington, D. C.) A United Methodist-related university.  AU’s School of International Service offers a Certificate in Peacebuilding with any undergraduate major.  Also offers a Certificate in International Peace and Conflict studies.  It also offers an M.A. in International Peace and Conflict Studies.  Hosts a Peacebuilding and Development Institute.  Also, AU’s Ph.D. program in International Studies offers a doctoral concentration in International Peace and Conflict Resolution.   Also offers an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Ethics, Peace, and Global Affairs.  AU also has several research centers which promote peacebuilding, including a Human Rights Council, a Center for Global Peace, Nuclear Studies Institute, Justice Programs Office, and Center for Islamic Peace.

Arcadia University (Glenside, PA).  Presbyterian Church (USA)-related.  Offers an M.A. in International Peace and Conflict Resolution.

Arizona State University (Tempe, AZ).  ASU’s School of Social Transformation has a B.A. and a B.S. in justice studies as well as a minor in justice studies and a certificate in human rights.  ASU’s Graduate School offers both an M.S., a Ph.D., and a joint J.D./Ph.D. (in cooperation with ASU’s law school)  in Justice Studies.  Also offers a graduate certificate in Socio-Economic Justice.  This is a nice reminder that while Arizona’s politicians are creating oppressive and unjust laws and public policies, they do not reflect the entire state.  ASU is one institution working in a very different direction.  I’d like to see faith-based peace and justice projects in places like Arizona, too.

Associated Mennonite Biblical Seminary (AMBS) (Elkhart, IN) offers a peace and justice studies concentration in its Master of Divinity degree as well as an M.A. in Peace Studies. One can also earn a dual degree M.A. in Peace Studies with a Master of Social Work (MA/MSW). Rooted in the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition with its theology of nonresistance and pacifism, these are some of the strongest such programs in the nation.

Barnard College (New York, NY) is a non-denominational liberal arts college for women closely associated with Columbia University.  It offers a joint major in Human Rights with any other major (e.g., Political Science). One can also cross-register with Columbia University’s famed B.A. in International Studies.

Bethany Theological Seminary (Richmond, IN) offers Peace & Justice concentrations in both its Master of Divinity (M.Div.) and Master of Theology (Th.M.) programs.  This is the graduate theological seminary of the Church of the Brethren, one of the Historic Peace Churches.  Once called “Dunkers” or “German Baptist Brethren,” the C.O.B. is a 300 year old denomination that began in Schwarzenau, Germany as a fusion between Mennonites and radical German Pietists.  Persecution led the Schwarzenau Brethren to transplant themselves to Pennsylvania.  The peace and justice concentrations are rooted in the Pietist emphasis on compassionate spirituality and the Anabaptist emphasis on pacifism and nonviolence.

Bethel College (North Newton, KS) is a Mennonite college and offers a minor in  peace, justice, and conflict with any major.

Berea College (Berea, KY), a non-denominational Christian college founded by radical abolitionists with a focus on educating the poor (especially African-Americans and those from Appalachia), has a minor in Peace and Conflict Studies that can go with any major. (Because I know the professor who created this minor, I have great hopes that the program evolves into a major leading to a B.A.)

Bluffton University (Bluffton, OH) is a Mennonite liberal arts university focusing on undergraduate liberal arts education with a few graduate programs.  It offers a Minor in Peace and Conflict Studies.

Boston College (Boston, MA) is a Catholic college in the Jesuit tradition.  It has a number of graduate programs but because there’s already a Boston University (related to United Methodists), BC will always be “Boston College.”  Offers a minor in “Faith, Peace, & Justice.”

Boston Theological Institute (Boston, MA) is a consortium of 10 seminaries and divinity schools in the greater Boston area:  Andover-Newton Theological Seminary (United Church of Christ & American Baptist); Boston College—School of Theology and Ministry (Roman Catholic—Society of Jesus);  Boston College Theology Department (Roman Catholic—Society of Jesus); Boston University—School of Theology (United Methodist);  Episcopal Divinity School (Episcopal Church, U.S.A.); Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (Evangelical Protestant); Harvard Divinity School (Ecumenical and Interfaith); Hebrew College (Rabbinical Seminary); Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology (Greek Orthodox);  Saint John’s Seminary (Roman Catholic—Boston Archdiocese).  Boston Theological Institute offers a Certificate in Conflict Resolution  and students from any member institution can take courses in any member institution by cross-registration.  A consortium this large should be able to develop this program beyond the certificate level.

Brandeis University (Watham, MA) is a Jewish-founded private university that offers an M.A. in Coexistence and Conflict.

Bridgewater College (Bridgewater, MA) is a college of the Church of the Brethren, one of the “Historic Peace Churches.”  It offers a Minor in Peace Studies.

Bryn Mawr College (Bryn Mawr, PA) is a Quaker-founded liberal arts college for women.  In addition to a major in International Studies, Bryn Mawr offers a concentration in Peace and Conflict Studies that can be added to any major.

Bucknell University (Lewisburg, PA) is a private, non-sectarian, university with a primary focus on undergraduate liberal arts education. It was founded in 1846 by Baptists but has no relation to any faith group today. It offers a minor in Peace Studies.

Butler University (Indianapolis, IN) was founded by abolitionist Christians from the Stone-Campbell Movement (and is still loosely related to the most liberal branch of that movement, the Christian Church-Disciples of Christ) in 1855. It’s a small, Midwestern university with a focus on undergraduate studies.  It offers a Minor in Peace Studies.

California State Polytechnic University (CalPoly) (Pomona, CA) has a Nonviolence Studies minor at the Ahimsa Center for Nonviolence which is an integral part of the CalPoly campus. “Ahimsa” is a Hindu word for ‘non-harming” and Mohandas K. Gandhi used it to explain his philosophy of active nonviolence for social change.

Chapman University (Orange, CA) is related to the Christian Church (Disciples of Christ), one of the 3 denominations rooted in the Stone-Campbell movement, a movement that began with a commitment to gospel nonviolence.  At its Wilkinson College of Humanities and Social Sciences, Chapman offers both a B.A. and a Minor in Peace Studies.

Clark University (Worcester, MA) is a small, New England research university with a liberal arts orientation.  Committed to scholarship and inquiry that addresses human imperatives on a global basis.  In addition to having the only Ph.D. program in Holocaust Studies, Clark has an undergraduate Peace Studies minor.

Colgate University (Hamilton, NY) is a small, elite university founded by Baptists (but no longer related to any denomination or Christian in orientation) that offers both a B.A. and a Minor in Peace and Conflict Studies.

College of St. Benedict (St. Joseph, MN) & St. John’s University (Collegeville, MN)  The College of St. Benedict is a Catholic women’s college and St. John’s University is a Catholic university for men.  The 2 schools (about 3 miles apart) function as one institution with students from both taking all classes at both institutions. They have a peace studies department that offers a B.A. in peace studies and a peace studies minor.

Columbia University’s Teacher’s College (New York, NY), the graduate school of education at Columbia University,  offers a Peace Studies concentration that helps teachers to spread peace education programs in secondary schools.

Cornell University (Ithaca, NY), a research university founded by industrialist Ezra Cornell, has a peace studies concentration in its international studies program.

Creighton University (Omaha, NE), a Catholic University in the Jesuit tradition,  offers a Justice and Society major and a minor in Justice and Peace studies.

DePauw University (Greencastle, IN) is a United Methodist university with a B.A. in Conflict Studies.

Duquesne University (Pittsburgh, PA) is a Catholic University founded by the Congregation of the Holy Ghost (the Spiritans).  DU’s Graduate School offers a Certificate in Conflict Resolution.

Eastern Mennonite University (Harrisburg, VA) is a Mennonite university with a B.A. in Peacebuilding and Development and a Minor in Peacebuilding.  EMU’s Graduate School offers both a Certificate and an M.A. in Peace and Conflict Transformation. EMU runs a Center for Justice and Peacebuilding which also offers a Summer Peacebuilding Institute.  All programs are rooted in both the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition of gospel nonviolence/Christian pacifism and the modern disciplines of peace studies and conflict transformation. Leymah Gbowee, the Liberian Lutheran woman who led the women’s peace movement that ended their 20-year old civil war, and who was one of the 2011 winners of the Nobel Peace Prize, is an alumna of EMU’s peacebuilding programs.

Eastern Mennonite Seminary (Harrisburg, VA) is a Christian theological seminary founded and run by the Mennonite Church, USA. It is rooted in the Anabaptist tradition.  Students from all Christian traditions are welcome, and EMS has a special relationship with the United Methodist Church.  Peace and justice emphases are found throughout the curriculum, bu,t in conjunction with EMU, it offers a dual degree of an M.Div./M.A. in Peacebuilding and Conflict Transformation.

Earlham College (Richmond, IN), founded by and related to the Religious Society of Friends (Quakers)  offers a B.A. in Peace and Global Studies (PAGS). Earlham’s PAGS major is one of the strongest in undergraduate peace studies and offers a core curriculum plus a choice of 8 different concentrations or foci:  1) Conflict Transformation, 2) Religion and Pacifism, 3) Social Theory and Social Movements, 4) International War and Peace, 5) African-American Civil Rights, 6) Women and Social Change, 7) Environmental Studies, or 8) a student self-designed focus.  In every focus, the PAGS major or minor is interdisciplinary and rooted in both the Christian spirituality of classic Friends/Quaker tradition and the modern peace studies discipline.  In 2002, the Plowshares Collaborative was formed to strengthen the peace studies programs between Earlham (Quaker), Goshen (Mennonite), and Manchester (Brethren) colleges, three liberal arts colleges related to the three Historic Peace Churches and all in Indiana.  Students at any of the 3 colleges involved in their respective peace studies programs can cross-register at any of the other schools.

Earlham School of Religion (Richmond, IN), a Christian graduate theological seminary in the Friends/Quaker tradition, offers an M.A. in Religious Studies with a concentration in Peace and Justice Studies. (ESR offers 4 concentrations for it’s M.A. program:  Biblical Studies, Christian Theology, Quaker Studies, and Peace and Justice Studies.)  ESR’s  Master of Divinity degree and Master of Ministry Degree both offer concentrations in Peace and Justice studies, too. All programs are rooted in Friends’ spirituality.

Elizabethtown College (Elizabethtown, PA) is a college of the Church of the Brethren, one of the “historic peace churches.”  It offers a minor in peace studies rooted in the Anabaptist and Pietist traditions of the Brethren.

Elon University (Elon, NC) is affiliated with the United Church of Christ.  Offers a Minor in Nonviolence Studies.

Emory University (Atlanta, GA) is closely affiliated with the United Methodist Church.  It offers a Ph.D. in “Religion, Conflict, and Peacebuilding,” but nothing on the undergraduate level.

Fairfield University (Fairfield, CT) is a Catholic university in the Jesuit tradition that offers  a minor in Peace and Justice Studies.

Fresno Pacific University (Fresno, CA) is a university of the Mennonite Brethren that offers an undergraduate minor in Peace Studies, as well as an M.A. in Peacemaking in Conflict Studies. The Mennonite Brethren Church is the U. S. branch of a German Pietist fusion with Polish and Ukrainian Mennonites, stemming from emigration to the U.S. (due to Russian persecution) in the 1870s. Mennonite Brethren consider themselves both Evangelical, Pietist, and Anabaptist and the peace studies programs flow from that core identity.  The graduate department of Fresno Pacific University also offers certificates in Church Conflict and Peacemaking, Mediation, Restorative Justice, School Conflict Resolution and Peacemaking, and a Personalized Certificate in Peacemaking and Conflict Studies.

Fuller Theological Seminary (Pasadena, CA) is a multi-denominational theological seminary in the Evangelical Protestant tradition.  It has just begun a Just Peacemaking Initiative that I hope will result in a degree program in the near future.

Gettysburg College (Gettysburg, PA) is a Christian liberal arts college founded by and closely related to Lutherans. It has a minor in Peace Studies.

George Fox University (Newburg, OR) is a Christian college closely related to the Evangelical Friends (the evangelical branch of the Friends/Quakers). It offers a Peace Studies minor.

George Mason University (Fairfax,VA) is a public, secular university in suburbs of D. C. which offers  B.A. , B.S. , M.S. and Ph.D. degrees  in Conflict Analysis and Resolution.  Also has an M.S. in Peace Operations.

Georgetown University (Washington, D.C.)  is the nation’s oldest Catholic University.  Founded by the Society of Jesus.  Has an M.A. in Conflict Resolution.

Goshen College (Goshen, IN) is a Mennonite college and offers a B.A. in Peace, Justice, and Conflict Studies.  It also has minors in both Peace and Justice and Conflict Transformation studies. Also offers a certificate for teachers in conflict transformation.  The chair of the department edits the Journal of Religion, Conflict, and Peace. All are rooted in the Anabaptist-Mennonite theological tradition.  Part of the Plowshares Collaborative which strengthens the peace studies programs at Goshen (Mennonite), Manchester (Brethren) and Earlham (Quaker) colleges.  Students in a peace studies program at any of the three Indiana schools can cross-register at any of the others.

Goucher College (Baltimore, MD), an independent, highly selective, liberal arts college with a strong international focus,  has a B.A. (and minor)  in Peace Studies.  Goucher is the first college in the nation to both require that all students spend some time abroad during their college career and to use considerable scholarship money to help make that possible without adding to student debt. Endowment funds are specifically set aside to help all students study abroad during their 4 years at Goucher.   A double major in International Studies and Peace Studies is possible at Goucher.

Grinnell College (Grinnell, IA) is a private, independent liberal arts college started prior to Iowa’s statehood by missionary teachers from Yale and Andover. Anti-slavery from its beginnings, Grinnell has always had a strong commitment to social justice and a strong internationalist outlook. In 2004, the Iowa Peace Institute (based in Grinnell, IA since 1987) transferred its assets to Grinnell College for the purpose of founding a new program in Peace Studies. So far, this program has resulted only in a minor concentration, but student interest is such that plans are afoot to offer Peace Studies as a major leading to a B.A. degree.

Guilford College (Greensboro, NC) is a Friends/Quaker college with a B.A. and a minor in Peace and Conflict Studies. It also offers a B.A. in International Studies and one in Justice and Policy Studies.  Drawing on the Friends/Quaker heritage, it combines the disciplines of peace studies and conflict transformation studies.

Gustavus Adolphus College (St. Peter, MN) is a Lutheran liberal arts college.  Offers a Peace Studies minor.

Hamline University (St. Paul, MN) is a United Methodist university.  It offers a B.A. in Social Justice.  Hamline University’s Law School has a Center for Dispute Resolution which offers several certificates in conflict resolution.

Hampshire College (Amherst, MA) is the base for the Peace and World Security Studies (PAWSS) B.A. of the Five College Consortium (Amherst College, Hampshire College, Mount Holyoke College, Smith College, University of Massachusetts at Amherst [UMASS-Amherst]).  The B.A. is only offered at Hampshire, but any student at any school in the Consortium can cross-register.  Hampshire College is a private, non-sectarian, liberal arts college founded as an experiment.  In 1958, the presidents of the 4 colleges Amherst, Hampshire, Mount Holyoke, Smith and the University of Massachusetts at Amherst, gathered to explore together the mission of undergraduate liberal arts education. Hampshire opened its doors in 1970 as an experiment that grew out of that re-thinking of the mission and methods of liberal arts education. It uses narrative evaluations rather than traditional letter or number grades.  Learning is student directed, multidisciplinary, multicultural. All students engage in original research, and all do service learning projects.  All students produce a graduate style senior research process before graduation.

Hastings College (Hastings, NE) is a Christian liberal arts college related to the Presbyterian Church, USA. Through its Sociology Department, Hastings College offers a B.A. in Peace, Justice, and Social Change.

Haverford College (Haverford, PA) is an elite liberal arts college founded by Friends/Quakers with a concentration in Peace, Justice, and Human Rights that can be added to any major.  Part of the Tri-College Consortium of Quaker colleges near Philadelphia (Haverford, Swarthmore, and Bryn Mawr) and the peace studies programs all cross-register within this consortium.

Hobart and William Smith Colleges (Geneva, NY) are two (2) independent colleges that function as one with a fully integrated curriculum, located in the Finger Lakes region of New York.  Originally, Hobart was founded in 1822 as a men’s college and William Smith was founded (1908) as a women’s college.  HWS now operates under a coordinate college system.  All students share the same campus, faculty, administration, and curriculum, but each college maintains its own dean, traditions, student government, and athletic department. Men graduate from Hobart and women from William Smith, but the two are so integrated that William Smith is not part of the Women’s College Coalition.  They offer a peace studies minor that can be added to any major, but works especially well with the International Studies & Political Science majors. Related programs include minors in Child Advocacy, Civic Engagement and Social Justice, Holocaust Studies, Law and Society, and Social Justice Studies.

Iliff School of Theology (Denver, CO) is a United Methodist Theological Seminary that offers a Justice and Peace Studies concentration within the Master of Divinity (M.Div.), Master of Arts in Pastoral and Spiritual Care, and Master of Arts in Social Change degrees.

Juniata College (Huntingdon, PA) is a college of the Church of the Brethren, a historic peace church with both Anabaptist and Pietist roots.  It has a Department of Peace and Conflict Studies that offers Programs of Emphasis (i.e., majors) leading to a B.A. in Peace and Conflict Studies; Communication and Conflict Resolution; or Peace and Conflict Studies as a secondary emphasis ( second major).

Manchester College (North Manchester, IN) has a B.A. in Peace Studies housed at the Peace Studies Institute and Program in Conflict Resolution.  The discipline of Peace Studies began at Manchester College with the first B.A. in Peace Studies offered in 1948.  Related to the Church of the Brethren, a Historic Peace Church.  Part of the Plowshares Project of coordinated peace programs at Earlham (Friends/Quaker), Goshen (Mennonite), and Manchester (Brethren) Colleges.  Publishes Nonviolent Social Change:  The Bulletin of the Peace Studies Institute.

Manhattan College (Riverdale, NY) is a small Catholic college that offers a B.A. in Peace Studies.

Marian University (Indianapolis, IN) is a Catholic university in the Franciscan tradition that offers a Minor in Peace and Justice Studies.  The approach here is rooted in Franciscan spirituality.

Marquette University (Milwaukee, WI) is one of the 28 Jesuit colleges and universities among U.S. Catholic universities.  Since 2007, it has had a Center for Peacemaking headed by my friend, Fr. G. Simon Harak, S.J., a Palestinian-American Christian, pacifist, moral theologian, and nonviolent activist.  Marquette offers an interdisciplinary minor in Justice and Peace studies open to everyone, but which coordinates well with an International Studies major. As of 2012, Marquette now offers a B.A. in Peace and Conflict Studies.

Mary Baldwin College (Staunton, VA) is a historic women’s college related to the Presbyterian Church, USA.  It offers an interdisciplinary minor in Peacemaking and Conflict Studies.  It also has a related major (B.A.) in International Relations.

Messiah College (Grantham, PA) is a Christian College founded by the Brethren in Christ and, thus, in the evangelical, Anabaptist, Pietist, and Wesleyan traditions.  Messiah’s Sider Institute offers a B.A. and a Minor in Peace and Conflict Studies.

Michigan State University (East Lansing, MI) is a public university that offers a specialization in Peace and Justice Studies under the College of Social Sciences.

Millsaps College (Jackson, MS) is a four-year liberal arts college founded and closely related to the United Methodist Church.  It offers a minor in Peace Studies.

Nazareth College (Rochester, NY) is a Christian liberal arts college founded and very closely related to the Church of the Nazarene, an evangelical denomination in the Wesleyan Arminian tradition.  It offers a B.A. in Peace and Justice Studies.

Nova Southeastern University (Ft. Lauderdale, FL) is a private research university that offers an. M.S. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution.

Oberlin College (Oberlin, OH) is a private liberal arts college and music conservatory that was founded by abolitionist evangelical Christians in the 19th C., but has long since become a secular/nonsectarian institution.  Offers a concentration in Peace and Conflict Studies that can be added to any major, but does not substitute for a major or minor.

Ohio University (Athens, OH) is a top-ranked public university.  Offers a B.A. in War and Peace Studies .

Roanoke College (Roanoke, VA) is a Christian liberal arts college founded by and related to Lutherans.  It has a concentration in Peace and Conflict Studies.

Southern Methodist University (Plano, TX) is a research university related to the United Methodist Church.  Has an M.A. in Dispute Resolution.

Swarthmore College (Swarthmore, PA) is an elite liberal arts college founded by Friends/Quakers that offers a Minor in Peace and Conflict Studies.

Tufts University (Medford, MA) is a university founded by Universalists and has both a Certificate and B.A. in Peace and Justice Studies.

University of Colorado at Boulder (Boulder, CO) is a public research university that offers a certificate in Peace and Conflict Studies.

University of Denver (Denver, CO) has a Joseph Korbel School of International Studies that offers M.A. degrees in International Development, International Human Rights, International Security, Conflict Resolution, as well as the traditional International Studies degrees.  It also has degrees specifically for people connected to the U.S. Peace Corps.

University of LaVerne (LaVerne, CA) was founded in 1891 by the Church of the Brethren, one of the “historic peace churches.” Although it has drifted considerably from its CoB heritage (only the campus minister must still be a minister in the CoB) and even brags on its website about how well it meets the educational needs of active duty and reserve military (!), U of LaVerne still offers a Minor in Peace Studies.

University of North Carolina at Greensboro (Greensboro, NC) is a public research university which offers an M.A. in Conflict and Dispute Resolution.

University of North Texas (Denton, Texas) is a public research university which  has a founded a Peace Studies Program.  Offers a Certificate and a Minor in Peace Studies, plus a Peace Studies concentration in the B.A. in International Studies.

University of Notre Dame du Lac (South Bend, IN) is a major Catholic university founded by the Congregation of the Holy Cross.  Through Notre Dame’s Kroc Institute for International Peace Studies, the university offers a B.A. and a minor in Peace Studies, an M.A. in Peace Studies, and even a Ph.D. in Peace Studies.  This is one of the few Ph.D. programs in peace studies available.  The Kroc approach is called strategic peacebuilding.

University of San Diego (San Diego, CA) is a Roman Catholic university in the Jesuit tradition.  It hosts the Joan B. Kroc School of Peace Studies which contains both an Institute for Peace with Justice and a Trans-Border Institute.  It offers an undergraduate Minor in Peace and Justice Studies.  Also offers an M.A. in Peace and Justice Studies.

University of Southern California (Los Angeles, CA) USC is a private, non-sectarian research university. It is the oldest institution of higher education in California—or even West of the Rockies.  USC has a peace and conflict studies minor and a human rights minor.

University of St. Thomas (Saint Paul, MN) is a Catholic university with a B.A. in Justice and Peace Studies.

Villanova University (Villanova, PA) is a Catholic university in the Augustinian tradition with a Center for Peace and Justice that offers both a certificate and a minor in Peace and Justice Studies.

Wellesley College (Wellesley, MA) is an elite, private women’s college.  It offers a B.A. in Peace and Justice Studies in the tradition of former Wellesley sociology professor Emily Green Balch, who won the Nobel Peace Prize for her leadership in the Women’s International League for Peace and Freedom (WILPF).

Whitworth University (Spokane, WA) is a Christian liberal arts college founded by Presbyterians and closely connected to the Presbyterian Church (USA).  It offers a B.A. in Peace Studies through the Political Science Department which also offers a minor.

International Universities with Peace Studies Programs

Internationally, the Peace Studies movement has been more often connected with research universities rather than specifically faith-based educational institutions.


University of Melbourne offers an M.A. in International Politics with an emphasis on Global Justice and Peacemaking.

University of New England (New South Wales) offers both a Master of Letters and a Ph.D. in Peace Studies.

University of South Australia (Adelaide) offers  an M.A. in Conflict Management.

University of Sydney has a Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies which offers both an M.A. and a Ph.D. in Peace and Conflict Studies.


Austrian Study Center for Peace and Conflict Studies offers an English-language M.A. in Peace and Conflict Studies.


Canadian Mennonite University (Winnipeg, MB), founded and operated by the Mennonite Church-Canada offers a B.A. and a minor in Peace & Conflict Transformation Studies [PACTS].  It hosts the Canadian School of Peacebuilding and an Institute of Community Peacebuilding. It publishes the Peace Research Journal. 

Conrad Grebel University College of the University of Waterloo (Waterloo, ON) is a liberal arts and theological college of the Mennonite Church-Canada attached to the University of Waterloo.  It offers  a B. A. in Peace and Conflict Studies rooted in the Anabaptist-Mennonite tradition.  There is also a Certificate Program in Conflict Management.  It also hosts a Centre for the Study of Religion and Peace.  Beginning in Sept. 2012, Conrad Grebel will offer a Master of Peace and Conflict Studies (MPACS).

King’s University College (London, ON) is a Catholic college at the University of Western Ontario.  It offers a B.A. in Social Justice and Peace Studies.

McGill University (Montreal, QB) operates a Centre for International Peace and Security Studies jointly with the University of Montreal. Together they offer a joint Ph.D. in Peace and Security Studies.

Sault College (Sault St.e Marie, ON) Offers a 2-year diploma in Peace and Conflict Studies.

University of Toronto (Toronto, ON) offers a B.A. in Peace and Conflict Studies.  It is offered through the Trudeau Centre for Peace and Conflict Studies (part of the Monk School of Global Affairs), which is named, of course, for the late Pierre Trudeau, one of Canada’s greatest prime ministers and a strong worker for global human rights and international peace.


University for Peace/Universidad para La Paz [UPEACE] was founded under the auspices of the United Nations to promote peacemaking and human rights. Has M.A. degrees in:  Environmental Security and Peace (and one with a specialization in Climate Change and Security); Gender and Peacebuilding; International Law and Human Rights; International Law and the Settlement of Disputes; International Peace Studies; Media, Peace, and Conflict Studies; Natural Resources and Peace; Peace Education; Sustainable Urban Governance and Peace.


Institut d’études politiques de Paris/Paris Institute of the Political Sciences [“SciencesPo”] (Paris).  Offers 2 related Masters degrees:  The Master in International Security and the Master in Human Rights and Humanitarian Action.

University for Health and Law/Université Lille 2: Droit et Santé (Lille Cedex).  Offers an M.A. in Management and Peacekeeping Within the United Nations Program.  


Coventry University (England) has a Center for Peace and Reconciliation which offers both a postgraduate certificate in Conflict Resolution Skills and an M.A. in Peace and Reconciliation Studies.

University of Bradford (West Yorkshire, England) has both an M.Phil. and a Ph.D. in Peace Studies.

University of Lancaster (Lancaster, England) has a B.A. in Peace Studies and International Relations; M.A. in Conflict Resolution and Peace Studies; Ph.D. in Peace Studies.

University of York (York, England) offers an M.A. in Conflict, Governance, and Development; an M.A. in Post-War Recovery Studies; Ph.D. in Post-War Recovery Studies.


Alice-Salomon University of Applied Sciences (Berlin) offers an English-language M.A. in Intercultural Conflict Management.

Northern Ireland & Republic of Ireland

Queen’s University (Belfast) offers an M.A. in Comparative Ethnic Conflict.

Trinity College (Dublin) offers an M.Phil. in International Peace Studies

University of Limerick (Limerick) offers an M.A. in Peace and Development Studies.

University of Ulster (Magee & Derry/Londonderry) offers an M.A. in Peace and Conflict Studies.


Tel Aviv University  offers an M.A. in International Conflict Resolution and Mediation.


Lebanese American University (Byblos). Has recently developed an Institute for Peace and Justice Education. At the moment, it only offers block courses and summer programs, but it is developing a minor in peace and conflict studies.


University of Troms offers an English-language M.A. in Peace Studies.


Bancaja International Centre for Peace and Development, Castellόn offers an M.A. in Peace and Development Studies in both English and Spanish.


Gӧteburg University offers an M.A. and Ph.D. in Peace and Research Development Research, both in English.

Uppsala University has an English language Advanced International Training Program in Conflict Resolution and offers a Ph.D. in Peace and Conflict.


Sabanci University offers an  English language M.A. in Conflict Analysis and Resolution.  The Ph.D. in Political Science has a conflict analysis concentration.

May 3, 2011 Posted by | colleges/universities, education, human rights, nonviolence, peace, peacemakers, theological education | 23 Comments