A Love Army
What would a Love Army look like? Pictured here is one example. On October 15, 1983 a corps of about 17,000 people joined hands to encircle Rocky Flats nuclear weapons facility near Denver. It was the culmination of five years of activism against this nuclear facility. It was finally closed in 1992.
What would it mean to be in a Love Army? Van Jones, commentator, actives and author of Rebuild the Dream, calls us to be part of a “massive Love Army” to retake our democracy, to restore the values of justice, kindness, equality and dignity that America stands for. It’s a beautiful image and I‘ve been thinking about what enlisting in such an army would mean.
Boot Camp training in this Love Army would look a lot different than in our conventional military. Rather than exhausting physical training for recruits—like crawling at top speed through mud with heavy packs on—it would be strenuous spiritual chin-ups and mental push-ups. I would need to train my mind to see the positive, because it’s much easier to focus on what's negative. Fr. Richard Rohr (Center for Action and Contemplation) says, "The positive is like Teflon; the negative like Velcro. If you concentrate on what’s wrong, it just sucks you in.” And, it just gives energy to what we don’t want, and in many cases makes protests counter-productive.
Another training: If I stand against hate, I can’t be hateful to anyone! I would have to do my best to bear no ill will toward, let’s say, President-elect Trump or his “cabinet of horrors” or the people who voted for him. It doesn’t mean I wouldn’t resist the behaviors or actions that abuse people or the planet in any way I could. But I’d better not be slinging daggers at anyone or I’m no better than those who are hateful.
What if I encountered a situation where someone was abusing or hateful to another person? As a member of this Love Army I would try to intervene if it were possible. I would keep in mind this quote from James Baldwin: I imagine one of the reasons people cling to their hates so stubbornly is because they sense, once hate is gone, they will be forced to deal with pain. It’s been said, “Hatred is the bodyguard of grief.” Here are some useful ideas about strategies for such a personal intervention. 8 Ways of Confronting Hate.
The practice of Critique and Bless: We must be able to discern, analyze and call out injustice when we see it. What we don’t normally do, however, is offer a blessing so that a better situation or action might unfold. For example, in a letter to North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple I condemned the use of excessive militarized police force against Standing Rock protectors. I also sent him a paper peace crane and said, “May you cause no harm to yourself by harming others or the Earth.” It’s a practice I learned from wisdom teacher, trickster and astrologist, Caroline Casey. I especially like this practice because I am not just trashing what a person thinks or does, but offering an antidote, a prayer for something better. (This blessing is also her inspiration.)
Keeping your heart open in hell. This is how Fr. Richard Rohr describes the spiritual practice we in this Love Army would need to engage in on a daily basis lest we become closed down, depressed, hopeless, self-centered, negative and grumpy. We would try to keep an open heart and open mind, and do our best to bring peace and harmony into whatever situation we are in.
Read Fr. Richard’s Daily Mediation for December 29th for more.
The protectors at Standing Rock are my models for what it means to be a courageous, peaceful warrior and member of a Love Army. I would do whatever I could in thought, word and action to fight for justice, and do least harm in how I lived my life, particularly in terms of my impact on the planet. Principles the protectors aspire to and practice are humility, honesty, compassion, generosity, kindness and wisdom.
I would also keep in mind something else Fr. Rohr says about love: “Love is not imposing, manipulative or demanding. Love is seductive, inviting, attractive.” Let us make our vision of a just and healthy planet so attractive, so desirable, so doable, that all will flock to create this vision like people storming the mall for Christmas shopping.
We can wave this song—"Get Together" by The Youngbloods—like a banner over our Love Army as we march into the new year. Here's the opening verse:
Love is but a song we sing, fear’s the way we die
You can make the mountains ring, or make the angels cry
Though the bird is on the wing and you may not know why
C’mon people now, smile on your brother
Ev’rybody get together, try to love one another right now.
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