The American Inferiority Complex by George Wolfe

George Wolfe

George Wolfe

The American Inferiority Complex
George Wolfe

It is often said that boisterous self-aggrandizement, particularly when a politician states a claim that is contrary to the facts, is in actuality a mask for covering a deep-seated insecurity and inferiority complex. This is a personality flaw that aptly describes Donald Trump. His obsessive-compulsive behavior, most recently directed toward National Football League players kneeling for the National Anthem, which pre-occupied him at the expense of responding adequately to the devastation in Puerto Rico and the Virgin Islands caused by Hurricane Maria, is a glaring example of misjudgment fed by his neurosis.

Sadly though, his inferiority complex has become contagious, infecting many Americans. This is understandable, however, given the vulnerable position America is now in, both nationally and internationally.

As I watch the Public Television Series on the Vietnam War, we can see where this sense of vulnerable inferiority began. Despite Richard Nixon’s determination not to be the first President to lose a war, America Lost. Despite President George W. Bush’s determination to retaliate for 9/11, launch the War on Terror and preemptively invade Iraq to remove Saddam Hussein, terror groups like Al-Qaida and ISIS have proliferated and expanded. Despite our efforts at nation building in Afghanistan, the Taliban is still a threat after 16 years of war. And despite President Trump threatening to destroy North Korea, Kim Jong Un is politically stronger and more influential than ever, and is holding the United States, South Korea, and Japan hostage through it’s growing nuclear capabilities.

The American inferiority complex is regrettably symbolized in the audacious unfolding of the giant, football-field sized American flag at NFL football games. But our inflated national ego can’t compete with professional athletes, coaches and team owners prayerfully kneeling before or during the National Anthem in protest of police brutality and President Trump’s divisive rhetoric. As an expression of hope and unity, it would be best now to add to the ceremony the singing of an alternative anthem, “Lift Every Voice and Sing,” which is also known as the African American National Anthem.

Perhaps our response to the Commander in Chief, who never served in the military, should be as follows: “Mr. Trump, since World War II, America’s stature in the world has changed. Today, you need to earn our patriotism. Stop tweeting and embarrassing our nation and our flag. We are not going to blindly follow you into another winless war, or into a conflict that increases global poverty and anti-American hatred.”

Karl Marx warned that capitalism contains within it, the seeds of its own destruction. Uprooting the poisonous seeds of white nationalism, police brutality, big-money politics, class and ethnic division and American self-centered arrogance as expressed by our president is a moral imperative if our country is going to survive the internal and external forces that threaten to tear it apart.

George Wolfe is Professor Emeritus and former director of the Ball State University Center for Peace and Conflict Studies. He also chairs the Muncie Interfaith Fellowship, is a trained mediator, and the author of The Spiritual Power of Nonviolence: Interfaith Understanding for a Future Without War.

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Walking the Labyrinth in the Rain by George Wolfe

George Wolfe

George Wolfe

Walking the Labyrinth in the Rain
George Wolfe

“He causes the sun to rise on the evil and the good, and sends rain on the righteous and the unrighteous” (Matt. 5:45).

I always thought the rain was a bad thing, that both righteous and unrighteous people were subjected to its misfortune. Until a friend of mine named Brother Elias, who is a Trappist monk at the Monastery of the Holy Spirit in Georgia, revealed to me that the rain could also be a blessing. God blesses both the righteous and the unrighteous if we can only be receptive to the potential goodness that can “rain” down upon us.

While in the middle of walking the cathedral labyrinth in New Harmony, Indiana, it started raining, but I was too far along to abandon my allegorical journey. There’s a lesson, I thought, that the universe is trying to teach me. So I embraced the rain as a new friend, absorbing every drop as she christened me from head to toe.

We are always told to stay on the straight and narrow, but life for me has been more like the meandering path of a labyrinth. I started as a university professor teaching classical and jazz saxophone, first in Virginia, then in Indiana at Ball State University. The versatility of my instrument led me to become interested in classical Indian music, which led to me making friends with some musicians from India, which led to a grant from the Eli Lilly Endowment and the opportunity to travel to India to study Hindustani music in New Delhi, Bangalore and Kolkata (formerly called Calcutta).

My time spent in India exposed me to Indian philosophy and the nonviolent teachings of Mahatma Gandhi, which led to my service on the advisory board of the Center for Peace and Conflict Studies at Ball State University, which led to me being named Director of Peace Studies. While serving for four years as Director of the Peace Center at Ball State, I became the target of conservative political commentator David Horowitz who listed me as one of the “101 most dangerous academic in America” because I was teaching a class in the history and philosophy of nonviolence. This resulted in many guest lecture opportunities and in the publication of two books, the first on spiritually and nonviolence, the second on modern physics and spirituality.

When I started my career in the late 1970’s, I never dreamed this is where I’d wind up. But somehow, I made it to the center of the labyrinth of life, or rather, what I currently think of as the center. In all likelihood, this is just a temporary stop along the way. At least I hope that is the case as I don’t want to stop growing.

I encourage everyone now to write down their own “labyrinth of life.” Think deeply about all your past expectations, and the twists and turns in your life with all the lessons they teach. Keep walking, even in the rain. Like the quantum field, you’ll find God to be full of possibilities and surprises.

George Wolfe is Professor Emeritus at Ball State University and former Director and Coordinator of Outreach Programs for the Ball State University Center for Peace and Conflict Studies. He is also an ordained interfaith minister, chairs the Muncie Interfaith Fellowship, is a trained mediator, and is the author of Meditations on Mystery: Science, Paradox and Contemplative Spirituality.

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Dreamers Deserve Path to Citizenship by George Wolfe

George Wolfe

George Wolfe

Dreamers Deserve Path to Citizenship
George Wolfe

In November of 2016, a social activist group known as “Neighbors for Public Justice” (NPJ) formed in Muncie, Indiana in response to post-election issues. These issues included preserving health care, funding for public schools, and the hostile rhetoric from the Trump campaign hurtled towards Latino and Muslim immigrants. If you have seen signs in Spanish, English, and Arabic around Muncie neighborhoods that read “No matter where you are from, we’re glad you’re our neighbor,” those signs were distributed by NPJ.

Our first sponsored public event was an informational meeting familiarizing members of our Latino community with the rights they have as undocumented immigrants. An Indianapolis law firm offered their services that evening pro bono. Their presentation was given in Spanish as well as in English.

Over the past several months, donations were sought to provide a scholarship to a Hispanic student in the program known as DACA, or Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals. The student chosen was brought to the United States as a child and is now enrolled at a prominent Midwestern university. Her parents are undocumented but they have worked in the United States since their arrival. Their daughter has a stellar resume; she graduated from high school as an honors student with a 3.9 grade point average.

This fund-raising effort and the resulting academic assistance flies in the face of President Trump’s irresponsible decision to end the DACA program. Why would our president want to disrupt the progress of these young people who are here at no fault of their own, and who are in the midst of their education to become professional members of our communities?

Trump’s decision to end DACA comes on the heels of his weak response to recent white supremacy rallies, and his failure to speak out forcefully against racism and anti-Semitism. There can be little doubt that he has no moral compass.

I am extremely encouraged that the new Ball State University President Geoffrey Mearns has joined ranks with Indiana University President Michael A. McRobbie and President Mitch Daniels of Purdue University in voicing support for the DACA program.

The “Dreamers” as they are also known, deserve to be given a path to citizenship. To quote President Obama, “This is about young people who grew up in America — kids who study in our schools, young adults who are starting careers, patriots who pledge allegiance to our flag. These Dreamers are Americans in their hearts, in their minds, in every single way but one: on paper.”

It’s time the United States Congress step up and take the initiative to do what’s right. The spirit of the law, requires it. Our moral conscience as a nation demands it. Let us lift high the “lamp beside the golden door.” Indeed, many of the Dreamers are those to whom we have given refuge from villages plagued by poverty and drug related violence. They were brought here for a better life, and are the best and brightest of the “huddled masses yearning to breathe free.”

George Wolfe is Professor Emeritus and former director of the Ball State University Center for Peace and Conflict Studies. He is also chair of the Muncie Interfaith Fellowship, is a trained mediator, and is the author of The Spiritual Power of Nonviolence: Interfaith Understanding for a Future Without War.


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My Journey to Totality by George Wolfe

George Wolfe

George Wolfe

My Journey to Totality by George Wolfe

I decided to go to Vienna, Illinois. That’s where I’d watch the moon make its slow procession across the face of the sun. It was the morning of August 21st, the day of the great American eclipse. For three weeks, I was an artist-in-residence in the historic town of New Harmony, Indiana. But I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to venture into the path of totality since it was only an hour and a half away.

There was one major concern however – the prediction of cloud cover. I was praying for a miracle. I figured it would be easier for God to part the clouds than for Moses to part the Red Sea.

At 7 AM, the traffic was light on the rural route I took into Illinois. In 40-minutes I was at a Subway sandwich shop buying my lunch, then 20 minutes later pulled into Eldorado, Illinois. There I stopped for a McDonald’s “Big Breakfast” (hold the sausage please).

While munching on my hash browns, I ran into a local working-class fellow who gave me some tips on where to watch the eclipse. He was headed to Buncombe, Illinois. This sounded so “Hoosier” that I believed it was a sign. Think he may have been a Zen Master in disguise.

It wasn’t long until I past a road sign that read “New Burnside, Illinois, population 250.” With the word “burn” in the town’s name, I knew I was in the heart of eclipse country.

Just outside of Vienna I pulled into a ranger station on the outskirts of Shawnee National Forest. I managed to get the last legal parking space. Amidst a modest and patient crowd, I decided to set down my roots.

The eclipse started 6 minutes before noon. There was an amateur astronomy nut in the crowd setting up his camera. I overheard him say how rare it is to see a total eclipse of the sun. I boldly interrupted: “Fellas, this is not only rare on earth, it is rare in our galaxy!”

Consider the chances of finding a planet around a sun like ours, that is in the Goldilocks zone, that has liquid water, that supports life and advanced civilization (notice I didn’t say intelligent civilization), that is just the right distance from its sun and has a moon that is just the right size to cover the sun so as to reveal its corona. Tack on these last two variables to the famous Drake Equation, which I admit is some of the fuzziest math in science, and the estimated number of planets where this phenomenon occurs shrinks drastically. We’re lucky to be living on this planet, and we’d sure better start taking care of it!

Just before totality, the sun-moon couple disappeared behind a cloud. Our worst nightmare. But the astronomy nut nearby was timing the event: “We have eight minutes to totality, so we should be OK.”  Four minutes later, the sun-moon couple reappeared. From then on there was clear sailing. Their wedding was on.

During the darkness of totality the corona blazed forth, and the moment it began we all erupted with ecstatic cheers and applause. And the planet Venus was nearby as a bridesmaid.

It is amazing how the slightest sliver of sun lights up the whole sky, the splendor of the sun is so overwhelming. The difference between 99.9% coverage and totality is huge, an astronomical quantum leap. Before it was over, we were treated to Bailey’s Beads and the sun’s diamond ring. We were inspired by its fire with hope.

Our experience of totality went by fast. I wanted an instant replay. Needed to relive that miracle which provided us with an ineffable “maybe there really is a God” experience.

One truth we were left with that no one can deny. In those precious two-and-a-half minutes of darkness, the celestial realm revealed to us the beauty we are missing if we allow ourselves to be consumed by hate.

George Wolfe is Professor Emeritus at Ball State University and former Director and Coordinator of Outreach Programs for the Ball State University Center for Peace and Conflict Studies. He also chairs the Muncie Interfaith Fellowship, is a trained mediator, and is the author of Meditations on Mystery: Science, Paradox and Contemplative Spirituality.

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Fake News Pollutes American Psyche by George Wolfe

George Wolfe

George Wolfe

Fake News Pollutes American Psyche
by George Wolfe

“Fake news” is nothing new. Prior to 1982, I spent five years teaching at James Madison University. The student paper published an article I wrote complaining about the students wasting their time reading pop magazines and newspapers like National Enquirer and The Globe. And it’s still a problem today.

Somehow, slanderous articles, like those recently about the Obamas’ supposedly impending divorce, are more enticing than reading Aristotle.

There’s a difference between fake news and “spin.” When politicians and commentators put their spin on a report, they interpret the news and speculate on political motivations. But the news they are interpreting is usually factual. Spin borders on propaganda, but propaganda usually ignores context.

I remember my fifth-grade teacher, Mrs. Stright, giving an illustration of propaganda. She said there was an auto race between two cars: an American made car and a Soviet car. The American car won the race, but the state-controlled Soviet news agency, without stating that there were only two cars in the race, reported that the Soviet car came in “second” and the American car came in “next to last.” The Soviet report was true, but it ignored the context and thus gave a report that was highly misleading.

Spin and propaganda are not fake news, because fake news is false. It may, at some time, be viewed as true, but time eventually reveals that it is false. And this is what makes Trump’s fake news far more dangerous than political spin or propaganda.

Fake news became a prominent part of the political landscape in 2003 when President George W. Bush insisted that Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. He even duped Secretary of Defense, Colin Powell, who presented the so-called “evidence” to the United Nations to justify the U.S. pre-emptive invasion of Iraq. And look where it has led us.

Bush’s fake news led to the Iraqi failed state; ISIS, an organization far more extremist that Al-Qaida, was eventually born along with one of the worst humanitarian crises in history; Israeli Prime Minster Benjamin Netanyahu has become increasingly paranoid, and North Korea accelerated its nuclear program, no doubt to deter a pre-emptive strike by the United States.

Around the same time, in the fall of 2004, Ball State University and the Center for Peace and conflict Studies became a victim of fake news. National right-wing bi-polar political commentator David Horowitz began criticizing collegiate peace studies programs throughout the country, claiming they were indoctrinating students with a liberal anti-American political agenda. As director of the Ball State Center for Peace and Conflict Studies, I became one of his prime targets, along with peace studies faculty teaching in Indiana at Earlham College and Purdue.

Horowitz used his Internet publication Frontpage Magazine, as well as conservative radio and television talk shows, to launch his nationwide campaign. The Associated Press covered the controversy, and articles were run in media outlets throughout the country, including on the CNN website and in USA Today.

This barrage of fake news even went so far as to accuse the Ball State peace center, the Muslim Students Association, and a student organization named Peaceworkers of supporting terrorism. Horowitz’s fake news machine also published a cartoon caricature depicting me playing the saxophone while the World Trade Center burned in the background.

The false and misleading accusations, however, eventually backfired, as is usually the case with fake news. Two honors students in my class wrote a letter refuting the accusations made against me. After I submitted documentation to Provost Beverly Pitts proving the accusations were not true, Ball State University president Jo Ann Gora published a guest editorial in The Star Press on December 15, 2004 supporting my teaching and validating the academic discipline of peace studies. The Fort Wayne Journal Gazette and The Star Press of Muncie also published editorials condemning Mr. Horowitz.

Today we are in a worse crisis with fake news because of the prevalence of social media. Anyone with modest computer skills can publish fake news, and apparently, over 40 percent of Americans gobble it up as gospel.

More social media sites need to follow the example of Facebook and publish warnings when they detect certain posts that could potentially constitute fake news. Otherwise, news from non-professional sources will continue to degenerate into the National Inquirer sickness that pollutes the American psyche.

George Wolfe is Professor Emeritus and former director of the Ball State University Center for Peace and Conflict Studies. He also chairs the Muncie Interfaith Fellowship, is a trained mediator, and the author of The Spiritual Power of Nonviolence: Interfaith Understanding for a Future Without War.







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Trump Should Show Moral Courage George Wolfe

George Wolfe

George Wolfe

Trump Should Show Moral Courage
George Wolfe

It’s time for Donald Trump to show moral courage and speak out definitively against anti-Semitism, white supremacist rhetoric, and their corresponding acts of vandalism that have become increasingly prevalent in the United States since his election.

Most recently, swastikas and anti-Semitic phrases evoking the horror of the holocaust have been sprawled on the New York Subway and in Houston on the statue of the founder of Rice University. Bomb threats have been called in to Jewish community centers in major U.S. cities.

This past November, the Ball State University Freedom Bus which is a traveling museum documenting the African-American struggle for equality during the Civil Rights Movement, was vandalized. And less than two weeks after the November election, so-called “White Nationalists” meeting at the Reagan Building in Washington D.C. to celebrate Trump’s victory, ended their meeting with the Nazi salute and the words “Heil Trump.”

Such expressions of hate run deeper than mere “enthusiasm,” a word Trump and others have used to dismiss questions from the press about anti-Semitism. Graffiti and vandalism in the form of hate speech are hate crimes that have no place in American culture. Moreover, they run counter to genuine humanist and religious values.

It is time for Donald Trump to confront the recent expressions of white supremacy and anti-Semitism. He should do so not in a tweet or in a two-sentence statement in the Huffington Post, but in a well-publicized presidential address.

In a recent news conference with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a reporter asked the president about anti-Semitism in the U. S. since the election. But instead of condemning the recent acts of anti-Semitism, he avoided the question by merely reiterating his administration’s hollow commitment to the Jewish people and the support of Israel.

Racism and religious prejudice are at the heart of what divides America and eats away at the moral leadership role the United States must play on the international stage. If Trump is a man of moral courage, he should take the lead in addressing the racist epidemic his election has unleashed.

Trump also should apologize for announcing his Travel Ban against immigrants and refugees on January 27, which was also the 2017 International Holocaust Remembrance Day.

In 1939, the ocean liner St. Louis set sail, carrying over nine hundred European Jews seeking entry into Cuba or the United States. The U.S. State Department turned the boat away, leaving the St. Louis no choice but to return to Europe. Most of its passengers were eventually taken to Nazi death camps where they perished. Had the United States government responded in 1933 and opened wider its doors for the years ahead, thousands of Jews could have been saved.

How many Syrian and Iraqi refugees, most of whom are women and children, would lose their lives if sent back to ISIS infested cities under Donald Trump’s travel ban?

If the president doesn’t have the moral courage to apologize and speak out directly against white supremacy, then Vice President Mike Pence, who is not shy about expressing his religious faith, should step up and carry the mantel of moral leadership. This is the type of leadership needed to re-establish respect for the Republican Party, our democracy, and our nation.

George Wolfe is Professor Emeritus and former director of the Ball State University Center for Peace and Conflict Studies. He also chairs the Muncie Interfaith Fellowship, is a trained mediator, and the author of The Spiritual Power of Nonviolence: Interfaith Understanding for a Future Without War.

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Discovering Your Inner Light by George Wolfe

George Wolfe

George Wolfe

Discovering Your Inner Light
George Wolfe

During the Christmas holiday, we often see the Magi or “wise men from the east” depicted in numerous nativity displays. The allegorical journey of the Magi to find the Christ child however, is actually celebrated after Christmas on the Christian calendar, beginning January 6th with the Feast of Epiphany and lasting to the beginning of Lent.

The word “Magi” refers to the priestly cast in Persia. Among their specializations was the pseudo-science of astrology. They were following a “star,” which was probably an astrological sign, that symbolizes a light or a guide that is external to oneself. This external knowledge is shown to be incomplete, as when the Magi arrived in Judea, they have to visit King Herod and ask where they could find the infant Jesus.

Once they found the Christ child however, who represents the Divine Light within us, they could have an epiphany. This epiphany came to them in a dream, instructing them to change course and return home without telling King Herod of the child’s whereabouts. Like the Magi who were prompted to take a different direction homeward, epiphanies, often result in a change in the direction of our thinking, or when most profound, in the course of our life’s journey.

The word epiphany is defined as “a sudden realization of truth.” The experience of having an epiphany usually dawns as an “ah ha” experience that awakens us to new possibilities. An inspiration dawns deep within the mind, a flash of insight that emerges from the darkness of the subconscious, as if to be born from the womb of mystery. Knowledge is revealed from within, and a spiritual teacher is someone who knows how to trigger this type of awakening in a disciple.

Unfortunately, as church leaders imposed their rigid dogma, the story of the Magi was reduced to a mere historical event, and the concept of epiphany as an inner experience was lost.

One might ask: why could not the Magi have had the dream before they got to Judea, sparing them the need to visit Herod? It is because they were relying solely on objective observation, that is, their external light. They had not gained access to their inner light.

Reviving the experience of epiphany leads us into the fascinating study of symbolism and allegorical meaning in scripture, and not only in Christian texts, but in Hindu, Buddhist, Jewish, and Islamic writings as well. Once we set aside the historical view of religion, we discover deeper possibilities of interpretation. This pursuit then becomes an exercise in inner growth and understanding, much like koans are used by Zen Masters to awaken their disciples.

There are many examples of insights revealing themselves to people in dreams as reported by musicians, artists, and scientists as well. Years ago, when I served on a panel at the International Conference on World Affairs in Boulder, Colorado, songwriter and entertainer Steve Allen told how his most successful song, “This could be the start of something big,” came to him in a dream.

The Canadian physician and stress researcher Hans Selye, in his book From Dream to Discovery: On Being a Scientist, tells the story of Otto Loewi, the scientist who devised the famous experiment proving the chemical transmission of nerve impulses. During a conversation with Selye, Lowei explained how he awoke one night from a dream with the idea for the design of his experiment.

The story of the Magi teaches us to pursue a course of awakening so we can follow our own “inner light” which is the source of wisdom within us. In the context of social justice, this is “the light [that] shines in the darkness” (John 1:5) and which “enlightens every man,” (John 1:9). It is the light that inspires humanity to follow a higher calling and embrace greater equality. And history has shown time and again, that the darkness cannot overcome the light (John 1:5).

George Wolfe is Professor Emeritus at Ball State University and former Director and Coordinator of Outreach Programs for the Ball State University Center for Peace and Conflict Studies. He also chairs the Muncie Interfaith Fellowship, is a trained mediator, and is the author of Meditations on Mystery: Science, Paradox and Contemplative Spirituality.

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A Global Movement for Human Unity: Bringing the Vision Down to Earth

I have often been asked what Voices of Humanity is all about. I say VoH is designed to promote human unity with gender-equality and support for diversity built-in. I explain that each month participants will write messages on topics of their own choosing, vote on each other’s postings and at the new moon the top-voted messages from the women, the men, youth, middle-aged, seniors and humanity-as-one will be publicized. These top messages will be generous, intelligent and optimistic, and will give us (humanity) a welcome new picture of ourselves. If we can enlist massive numbers of participants, we will build a heartfelt sense of human unity to underpin real trust and cooperation between the nations and religions, giving us our best chance to bring order out of chaos and prevent the collapse of human civilization.

Yeah, but what is Voices of Humanity actually going to do when we bring that vision down to earth? That’s what people ask when I have finished my elevator speech.

Dodging the question, I describe how Voices of Humanity will give a global voice to all the marginalized groups: indigenous peoples, refugees, disadvantaged minorities, endangered children, veterans, and to the movements that bring people together: interfaith, peace, supporters of the United Nations for starters. Yes, asks my new elevator friend, but what does that translate to? If I get involved, what will I be doing that will make a difference?

Down in the lobby, now, I give it my best shot: “That’s for you and all the other participants to decide, but I can give you a better idea how things will go.” So this is my vision how we can make Voices of Humanity social media work for us in what I hope is a practical way.

Each month we have winning messages from the six Voices of Humanity. The question is how can we act on those winning messages at the individual and local level? Forget the national and global levels for now. We are not nearly organized enough yet for concerted action above the local level.

Shel Silverstein's Now here’s my plan: the Nonviolent Action community, @nvaction, will address the question of what we can do at the individual and local level. The global VoH community will give us something to think about at each new moon. The Nonviolent Action community will discuss and come up with practical suggestions by the following full moon. Individuals can take their cue for action around the world from what the Nonviolent Action community has suggested. Local VoH teams will arrange to have meetings on or shortly after the full moon so they can decide on a course of action taking into account what the online Nonviolent Action community has come up with.

Feedback from those who have taken up the call for action will energize the larger community. So maybe this plan is not so futile! I love that cartoon – thank you Shel Silverstein. “There’s a lot of hope even in a hopeless situation.”

As we grow in numbers, the various communities can spin off their own Nonviolent Action committees. For instance, messages hashtagged #nonviolence #interfaith #nuclear_disarm will bring together interfaith nuclear disarmament people who want to do something in a concerted way about the distressing and frustrating nuclear arms situation. This kind of networking across the silos is going to be a big selling point for the Voices of Humanity technology. Until we have much greater participation, though, we need to concentrate on action at the most general level.

The VoH networking-across-the-silos component will enable many specialized nonviolence action committees to work together with a heartfelt sense of unity. I can see the local NV Action committees joining together in plenary session at their full moon meetings to decide an overall action plan based on the previous new moon’s winning messages, and then breaking out into specialized tables to come up with even more specific actions.

Organizations such as local sustainability groups will be welcome of course, but for starters, we will be looking for individuals and their friends to participate. That means you! Organizations by their nature have as much on their plate already as they can handle. Once we get off the ground, then our attraction for organizations will grow. It is possible that we will become the UN’s “across the silos” platform for civil society at every scale. To be sure, there are half a dozen major steps between here and there, but the prospect is exciting and realistic enough to give it a go. Your participation could make the difference.

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The Subversive Message of the Christian Nativity by George Wolfe

The Subversive Message of the Christian Nativity by George Wolfe

George Wolfe

George Wolfe

This is the time of year we hear those beloved Christmas Carols. And if you come from a Christian family like me, you delight in watching children participate in re-enactments of the nativity story from the Gospel of Luke. We re-create the pastoral scene of the shepherds, “keeping watch over their flock by night” (Luke 2:8) to whom appeared a multitude of angels announcing the birth of a Savior. But these portrayals of the Nativity are highly romanticized and omit the underlying theme of struggle that is found throughout the story.

First of all, shepherds stayed up late watching their flock when the ewes were giving birth. They were working overtime, pulling an all-nighter, serving as midwives to assist in the birthing of lambs. They were hardly lounging under the stars, contemplating the night sky.

Second, Mary went into labor while traveling, riding on a donkey. There was no room in the inn, so they had to settle for delivering the baby in a dirty stable. And there was no medication for Mary to take the edge of her pain. The best Joseph could do is improvise a bed out of straw and make use of a manger that was used to feed livestock. It must have been a long sleepless night for the weary parents.

Sometime later, the holy family had to flee to Egypt. They became immigrants to escape the terror of King Herod who would stop at nothing to stay in power. Fortunately, Egypt accepted them as refugees.

The entire story turns the values of our modern world upside down and exemplifies the teaching that in the Kingdom of God, “many who are last will be first, and the first last” (Matt. 19:30). In Luke’s Gospel, the people chosen to receive the announcement of Christ’s birth are not the kings and powerful military leaders, not the legal experts or educated philosophers. Those privileged to hear of the birth are the shepherds who were of a much lower social status. And the Christ child is born to a woman who became pregnant out of wedlock. Jesus entered the world not in the midst of royalty and wealth, but was born to a modest family managing to eek out a living in humble circumstances.

Finally, we read the phrase “Kings of Kings and Lord of Lords” and hear it as a glorified expression of praise. But in the context of the Roman Empire, these words were highly subversive. Roman leaders liked the fact that there were many religious sects.  This kept religion unorganized, weak and divided. They could tolerate religion as long as a person paid homage to the Emperor first. When Christians addressed Jesus as “King of Kings,” they were saying he was above the Emperor. These were words of defiance and are one reason why early Christians were tortured.

The Christmas message therefore, is not for the Wall Street billionaires and department store owners. It’s not for powerful politicians or military leaders. Rather, Christmas is for the working poor, the disenfranchised, the homeless, and the teenage single mom who chose to keep her baby and is struggling to finish school so she can support her child. Christmas is for the disabled veteran suffering from PTSD. It offers hope for prostitutes, alcoholics and drug addicts who are desperately trying to survive and turn their lives around.

Christians are people who, like Mary and Joseph, recognize that they are not in control. They realize that the complex economic, political and environmental systems of our world are well beyond our ability to control, and that wealth, political power and intellectualism create only the illusion that we are in charge.

The deeper message of the Christian Nativity is one of struggle, inconvenience, forced displacement and humility. It teaches us to endure that struggle and surrender to a power that is far greater than ourselves. It obligates us to welcome displaced families who are fleeing the horrors dispensed by power-hungry politicians.

So this year when you sing Silent Night, ponder why it is that “shepherds quake” (verse 2), and how an innocent child could be a subversive threat to a powerful empire.

George Wolfe is Professor Emeritus and Coordinator of Outreach Programs for the Ball State University Center for Peace and Conflict Studies. He is also chair of the Muncie Interfaith Fellowship, is a trained mediator, and is the author of The Spiritual Power of Nonviolence: Interfaith Understanding for a Future Without War.

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From Marches to Direct Action by George Wolfe

From Marches to Direct Action by George Wolfe

George Wolfe

George Wolfe

On Saturday evening November 11, I attended a Trump Resistance Rally held on the south lawn of the statehouse in Indianapolis. This event was well organized, with efforts made by city officials and police to section off the streets in the downtown area.  The 1000 plus people in attendance were allowed to march around Monument Circle making known our objections to Donald Trump’s hateful rhetoric and his anti-immigrant agenda.

While demonstrations, protests and marches serve the important purpose of energizing supporters, airing issues and capturing media attention, there comes a time when activists must move forward with strategies of direct action that resist injustice and government policies that discriminate. Henry David Thoreau’s landmark treatise, Essay on the Duty of Civil Disobedience, asserts that when the machinery of government propagates injustice, we must provide resistance, “be a counter friction to stop the machine.” Here are some actions Americans can take to apply active nonviolent resistance to the Trump-Pence machine.

Boycott. Most recently, teams in the National Basketball Association, among them the Milwaukee Bucks, the Dallas Mavericks, and the Memphis Grizzlies, have decided to boycott Trump-owned hotels, with other unnamed teams following suit. This past June, the Latin Business Association called for a national boycott of all Trump–own businesses and products.

Become involved in the Sanctuary Movement. There are numerous organizations listed on the internet that provide aid for undocumented Mexican families and children seeking sanctuary from the violence of drug lords, and Syrian families needing safe haven from the civil war in Syria.

In addition, several cites in the United States such as Los Angeles, New York, Denver, Seattle, Baltimore, Phoenix and Chicago, have declared themselves to be “sanctuary cities” that refuse to cooperate with the call to roundup and deport undocumented immigrants. This despite the possibility these cites may risk losing millions of dollars in federal aid.

Police chiefs in Los Angeles, Tucson and other cities say they will not burden law enforcement officers with inquiring about a person’s immigration status unless that person is involved in a serious crime.  Steve Mylett, Chief of Police in Bellevue, Washington has emphatically stated,  “We don’t want someone who is the victim of a crime to have any fears about talking to the police because of their immigration status.”

Ironically, the sanctuary movement began during the Reagan administration in an effort to provide refuge to people from Nicaragua and other Central American countries fleeing the violence of civil war.

Support churches that are active in resettling refugee families. Most recently, Catholic Charities and Archbishop Joseph Tobin accepted a Syrian family despite Governor Mike Pence’s decision to suspend the resettlement of Syrian refugees in Indiana.

Other Indiana religious organizations, particularly activist churches such as African-American, mainstream protestant and Unitarian Universalist congregations, can offer support to refugees and should be prepared to hide Latino and Middle-Eastern families and children, much like Jewish families and children were hidden from the Nazi’s by the underground resistance movement during World War II.

Support Open Door, Planned Parenthood and other organizations that offer health care services to women.  Volunteer to provide rides to women who do not have transportation to clinics that provide for reproductive health care.

Donate to environmental organizations. Serra Club and other environmental groups focus on climate change and efforts to combat global warming.

Patronize middle-eastern and Mexican-owned businesses. Many immigrant families open restaurants, convenience stores, ethnic food markets, or manage motels in your community.

Finally, support multicultural programs in your community. Multicultural concerts and other events an excellent way to educate young people and show the immigrant community they are valued and welcome.

George Wolfe is Professor Emeritus and former director of the Ball State University Center for Peace and Conflict Studies. He also chairs the Muncie Interfaith Fellowship, is a trained mediator, and the author of The Spiritual Power of Nonviolence: Interfaith Understanding for a Future Without War.

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