A Little Way of Justice and Peace
In the beginning, God created the heavens and the earth and gave humanity the stewardship of Creation. It is evident that we have not done well with that responsibility. The great need of this time is for Christians to take personal responsibility for the proper stewardship of Creation. The Lord does not need people to go along to get along with the culture of death. God calls us to act boldly & decisively against the culture of death which promotes greed, mindless material consumerism, lust, and violence.
High sounding ideals are great - but we must also ask - what do they mean in actual practice? How can we praise God while demanding that the government kill little kids in foreign countries to satiate our greed for gasoline? Are we like the Church in Laodicea, to whom our Lord in the book of Revelations in the Bible said, "I know your works, I know that you are neither hot nor cold. . . so, because you are lukewarm, I will spit you out of my mouth. For you say, 'I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,' and yet do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked." (Revelations 3)
Are we ready to speak truth to power not only with our words, but with the way we live our lives? Can we reach for holiness and sanctity and not have that manifest in our lifestyle? How can we live a life that calls the government to peace, not war? Everyone must examine his or her own life with spiritual eyes wide open, and make choices about their ways and manners of living. Here are some ideas for discernment by people interested in Christian orthopraxis- right living - an orthopraxis that is rooted in orthodoxy. If you want a sign of contradiction to this modern world of violence, greed, lust, and gluttony, this is it. (See also the Works of Justice and Peace, page 20)
1. "The Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor." Nurture blessings & hope in your own life & in the life of your community. Promote solidarity & cooperation. Don't leave the poor behind for the wolves to devour. Pray without ceasing.
2. "Where your treasure is, there will also be your heart." Spend less money in the unsustainable and unjust corporate globalized economy. Spend more money in the local just and sustainable grassroots economy. Where practical, spend your money with cooperative, worker owned enterprises and locally owned sole proprietorships. Avoid the franchises and glomart big box chain stores. When you buy from the glomart economy, you may also be financing ecological devastation, destruction of local cultures, dispossession of traditional peoples, authoritarian regimes, energy waste, corruption, violence against women and children, political repression, war, and animal cruelty. Give generously to help those in need.
3. "Faith without works is dead." Accept responsibility for your own life, but understand your interdependence with others and the importance of community. Be aware of your ecological environment and how your lifestyle impacts the community and the world you live in and other people. "What I do doesn't matter" is a lie we tell ourselves to make ourselves feel better about doing wrong.
4. "Give us this day our daily bread." Consider carefully how and where you earn your money; aim for a "right livelihood". Work with an inner understanding that you are following an hon-orable vocation that supports yourself and your house-hold, be your job mopping floors or composing sym-phonies. Help the enterprise you work for or own, whether it is for profit or not, to learn and implement just and sustainable principles that help you do your jobs using less energy and producing less pollution, while being a good and honest neighbor. If your job involves building nuclear bombs or raping the environment, find less deadly and destructive ways to make a living. Consider creating a job in the grassroots local economy. This could be starting a business or forming a cooperative business. Don't be afraid to start small, we often start small or we don't start at all. Earning less money, consistent with your circumstances (the size of the family and debts), is generally a good ascetical discipline to follow. Do not despise manual labor. In fact, make sure that manual labor is part of your lifestyle.
5. "The borrower is the slave of the lender." Flee the bondage of debt. If you must borrow money for education or housing, pay it off as quickly as you can, always make extra principle payments on loans. Never finance frivolous consumption with borrowed money on credit cards. If you must borrow money, borrow from a credit union. Use a credit union for savings and checking accounts.
6. "Jacob journeyed and built for himself a house." Find a congenial place and put down roots. Living in a building that you own (by yourself or in cooperation with others) and that is debt free is a very great blessing. If you have a mortgage (literally "death grip" in Latin), make extra principle payments every month. To achieve this goal, it may be necessary for you to think outside of the box and be creative to make the most of your circumstances. For example, two families with limited income might not be able to afford a single family house, each on its own resources. But they could buy a duplex together. Or a half dozen young people could join together as a housing cooperative and buy a large older house.
7. "Waste not, want not." Minimize your energy consumption. Invest in energy conservation and alternative, renewable energies. Super insulate your housing consistent with your climate. Walk, take public transportation, or ride a bicycle, wherever possible. Organize your life so you can live car free or alternatively, to minimize use of a personal vehicle. If you do drive a car, be economical in its operation. Think twice about vacations that consume large amounts of energy, look for ways to travel lightly on the land when you leave your home community for business or pleasure. Go to local and regional conferences and meetings that don't require much travel, not to national and international gatherings unless there is a necessary reason for doing so. Be wary of travel to ecologically sensitive areas. When you consider the amount of space you need to live in, remember that "more space" generally translates into "more money and more energy expense". Remember that "stuff" has energy embodied in its manufacture and distribution, so the more new stuff you buy, the more energy you are consuming.
8. "The love of money is the root of all evil." Practice personal detachment from material goods. Live simply that others may simply live. Remember that you are NOT your stuff. Reduce, reuse, recycle, repair, make do, do without, use less stuff. Patronize the aftermarket in places like swap meets, thrift stores, and flea markets. Avoid new stuff as much as possible. Don't buy clothing made in sweatshops. Limit your consumption of resources, including water. If you buy something new, buy it from a locally owned business or directly from a local producer. Don't buy imported merchandise from Third World countries unless it is certified as "Fair Trade".
9. "Invest in root stock." Grow some of your own food. Plant fruit and nut trees, berry bushes, and other perennial food crops. Preserve heirloom varieties of plants and animals. Buy food from local growers or processors. Encourage schools and churches to start gardens. Don't buy any meats, eggs, or poultry that originate in Confined Animal Feeding Operations, buy meats from farmers who treat their free-ranging flocks and herds humanely and naturally. Cook meals from basic ingredients; don't buy junk food, make your own snacks and beverages or buy locally grown and made foods and drinks from neighborhood stores, bakeries, or brewers. Eat with the season, don't buy fresh produce in the winter unless it was grown in your area. Learn home food processing skills and depend less on international commercial food corporations. Stop buying and eating fish from the sea.
10. You are not your wardrobe. Clothing is one of the easiest necessaries to find in thrift stores and flea markets. If you must have new clothes, make them yourself or have a local tailor or seamstress make them for you, or at least only buy clothes with union or cooperative labels. Minimize your purchases of clothes that require dry cleaning; air and sun dry your clothes after they're washed instead of using a clothes dryer. Don't buy clothing that has been produced in sweatshops.
11. "Gather your community." Connect with your local neighbors and friends. Be a good neighbor. Help your neighbors and friends and work with them to make your community more sustainable and resilient. Be active with civil society organizations or informal associations that are working for good causes and goals. If you vote, do so intelligently and with thought about the consequences. If you have no community, find one or create one.
12. "Be alert and aware." Know what's going on. Search out "side-stream" media for news and useful information. Tell others what is happening in your area and be generous in sharing knowledge and skills. Ignore government and corporation propaganda. Don't buy the lie that "what you do doesn't matter". Kill your television, or at least grievously wound it. Beware of and resist media messages that encourage gluttony, waste, and instant gratification, which are often the source of the excuses you make to yourself that keep you from doing what you need to do. Procrastination is deadly.
13. "Don't let the perfect become the enemy of the good." Do what you can, with what you have, where you are. Select small, easy projects at first ("pick the low hanging fruit") and as you get better at those, adopt bigger and more challenging goals. If you can't do the best, it's OK to be simply better, or at least good, even "fair to middling." Be willing to start small, or it is likely you will never start at all. But beware of procrastination. Learn many things. Practice many skills. Teach others. Be ready to adapt to major changes that may come your way. To avoid fools, take steps.
14. "Think globally, act locally. " When the going gets rough, nobody gets thrown to the wolves. This is a basic principle of a civilization of life and love; we ignore it to our peril. Our first concern is naturally for those who are closest to us, but that can't be the extent of our involvement. Our families, friends, and neighborhoods are impacted directly by world events. Our response to the globalization of greed and gluttony, and to the rise of violence in this world, is the globalization of solidarity, which must manifest itself in practical actions, not just rhetorical flourishes. An injury to one indeed is an injury to all: we must make injustice visible and protect the poor and the powerless. The more solidarity and cooperation that is present in a society, the more resilient, just, and sustainable it is
15. "Remember the time of hunger in the day of plenty." Watch out for dangers that may be ahead, and act in advance to mitigate the impact of such events. The time to build the cellar is before the tornado hits.
16. Support political & voluntary initiatives that promote sustainability and resilience, such as public transportation, energy efficiency, renewable energy resources, small farms, decentralized econo-mics, balanced government budgets, & local markets.
17. "Love life as it is." Be present to each moment as you go through time and place. Be open to the wonder of grace that abounds, and be wary of the demons which prowl about the world seeking the ruin of souls. Do everything with a heart of generosity and gratitude and with joy and celebration. Pray without ceasing.
HOME | Summer 2006 Catholic Worker