WILLIAMS, LINDA K.
REFLECTIONS AND ANECDOTES RE: THE BUMPERSTICKER AND ITS MESSAGE, AND HOW THE SONG WAS "BORN"
(Please note: This was written at On Earth Peace's invitation in April, 2008, with some additions for the 2013 Messenger article)
"Everybody living in the neighborhood of your church should know that there are Christians who believe that we shouldnt go to war, that to follow Jesus' teachings means that we will love our enemies, not kill them."
Art Gish's words resonated strongly with me, and I smiled, thinking, "YESSS!!! Each time someone reads our bumpersticker--- or other format of 'When Jesus said, "Love your enemies," I think he probably meant don't kill them---- they're receiving exactly that crucial message!" And, it is even more crucial than ever to get this concept into the mainstream consciousness since our country has been engaged in "preemptive strike" wars for the past 5 years in both Afghanistan and Iraq--- and since in the next several months, our citizens will be choosing a new "Commander in Chief". Will we have at the helm someone who resonates with the concept that diplomacy and the moral high road, not brute force, are the best ways to go---- both to reach our own goals of national security, and to reach out to our brothers and sisters around the world with the extended hand of friendship, rather than a fist ready to crush perceived opposition?
Simply put, the more people who are looking for a leader who is more inclined than not, to follow Jesus' teaching on peace, the better a chance that the answer will be a resounding "YES!" to that question! And, the more consciousness-raising we can help promote, perhaps the better chance we'll have that voters will reflect on that criteria when making their choice!When On Earth Peace invited me to reflect upon how the bumpersticker (and the song of that title) came into being --- and how writing the song has changed my life--- I was delighted by the opportunity.
Q: "WHAT HAS IT BEEN LIKE FOR YOU TO SEE THE CONCEPT "TAKE ON A LIFE OF ITS OWN"? When OEP rejoiced that the bumpersticker has become "wildly popular," and that (at that time) there were 30,000 in circulation, I was ecstatic!
I always love the reactions to my "silent witnessing" ---- that is, wearing the T-shirt, and being ready with a supply of bumperstickers to give to the many who invariably comment, "Hey, I love your T-shirt!"--- especially at airports! I've even had the opportunity to share them with service people in uniform (at their request, of course); this way of helping spread the message always puts a big smile on my face, and warms my peacemaking heart!And, while I've gotten a huge kick out of many people's reactions to the bumpersticker and T-shirt--- including "thank you's," chuckles, and outright laughter at the absurdity of the irony--- my favorite reaction was from an airline steward who tilted his head to the side to read the bumpersticker on the neck of my guitar case. He said reflectively, "Well, I'm for the war.... but, I'm for Jesus, too..." (I cheered silently, "YESSS! Cognitive dissonance!!") I gave him some stickers to share with the Bible Study group he said he attends.... you never know where that might lead....!I'm gratified that my silent witnessing provided him with some food for thought which could even be the beginning of a paradigm shift for him and perhaps others in his circle of influence. We never know what impact we might make with the seeds of peace we sow in this way. However, we'll know that we have planted the seeds, that we have created ripples. Here are some empowering visual images which remind us that our faithful actions will often bear fruit which we ourselves might never see:Albert Schweitzer: "No ray of sunshine is ever lost, but the green which it awakens into existence needs time to sprout, and it is not always granted for the sower to see the harvest. All work that is worth anything is done in faith."
And, from a story about Gandhi (in the song "Ripples and Starfish"): When one of Gandhi's followers felt his efforts made no difference at all, Gandhi said to him, Your words and actions matter, whether large or small; you need to choose them with great care; they're like pebbles that you cast into a pond. The ripples will take care of themselves, I've found.
(2013 note: You can download the lyrics and the recording of this song---either the secular or religious version--- from BetterWorld-Resources.com.... enjoy!) So, each time you help get this message out there into mainstream consciousness--- whether it's
- wearing the T-shirt or the lapel pin...
- displaying the bumpersticker on your car (or laptop, refrigerator, bulletin board, guitar case, suitcase, backpack... etc.!)...
- sending all your outgoing mail on its way with the little sticker...
- holding up the message at peace rallies and demonstrations...
- sharing the song lyrics and/or recording---
you never know how the seeds of God's peace that you're planting just might take root, grow, and flower one day, so that all who call themselves "Christian" are believers in and followers of Christ's way of peace! I'm thrilled that the bumpersticker has become a very efficient and effective way to get the word out that there are Christians who don't go along with waging war---- and it is my hope and prayer that we in our beloved denomination of the Church of the Brethren will become even more intentional about sharing that message as widely as possible!
I fervently hope that, long after my earthly days are over, the phrase and concept will continue to circulate around, continuing to raise consciousness, create cognitive dissonance, and cause more and more people who consider themselves to be followers of Jesus to conclude that that means they need to accept the "package deal" of Jesus' teachings, including that part about loving our enemies, NOT killing them.... even if killing them is perceived by some--- or even the majority--- to be in our national interests!
Q: HOW DID THE SONG (UPON WHICH THE BUMPERSTICKER IS BASED) COME INTO BEING?
The "song seed" (that's what I call a quote or other thought-provoking statement or concept that seems to me like it "wants to grow into a song") was the quote from Gandhi: "The only people on earth who do not see Christ and his teachings as nonviolent are Christians." What a powerful statement --- and how tragic it is that, for the most part, it's true; that most Christians do not believe that being a Christian means that we are called to unwaveringly follow the path of love, peace, and forgiveness, rather than that of violence, revenge, and retaliation! I wanted the song to uplift and celebrate that fact that the Church of the Brethren does, in fact, embrace Jesus' pacifist teachings. And, I figured, if I could put just a bit of "tongue in cheek" into the song, it would help grab listeners, and encourage them to realize--- "Hey, being a 'Christian' war-promoter really doesn't make sense, does it?!" I began to collect other quotes, scriptures, and concepts that would "flesh out" that ironic quote by Gandhi.* A key quote to include, of course, was All war is sin. Church of the Brethren Annual Conference Statement, 1934; re_affirmed a number of times since then * And, I wanted the song to be firmly rooted in the Scriptures--- especially Jesus' teachings--- and wanted to include all the key ones I'd read/heard all my life, so I searched through my Concordance and gathered these:
"Love your enemies," (Matt. 5:44) "Blessed are those who work for peace," (Matt. 5:9) "Study war no more." (Isaiah 2:4)
Jesus taught Gods love includes even enemies as our neighbors, and He calls us to love them as ourselves. (Luke 10:29-37; Matthew 22:39) were to turn the other cheek, repaying no one evil for evil, (Luke 6:29, Rom. 12:17) and were to bless and pray for those who mistreat and persecute us, overcoming evil with good. (Matt. 5:44, Rom. 12:14, Romans 12:21)
- Years ago, Dr. (?) Tom Hurst (formerly the head of OEPA), used a phrase that really stuck with me, and expressed in a nutshell how God wants us to be instruments of peace: be non-confrontational but un-apologetic (Tom Hurst)
- I was also inspired by Dr. David Radcliff's simply phrased concept: Fighting to kill is not God's way, cause God's way is love; (David Radcliff) Kind of a "No, duh!" statement--- just like the bumpersticker itself!--- but it definitely needs to be vocalized.... again and again!
- In The Messenger, I came across Dale Aukerman's words of wisdom. When I called their home for permission to use the quotes, his wife was delighted and quite emotional about my request... I didn't understand why, but she then explained that he was at that time dying from cancer, and she knew he would be quite gratified to have his quotes used in a song. I was very happy to be able to send them a copy of the lyrics and recording before he passed away.
Everything Jesus taught, and how "God in flesh" lived is 180 degrees opposite of what is done in making war. The early Christians got the message, and were pacifists---no war for them! (Dale Aukerman)
- The concept of the Bible containing the progression from unlimited retaliation to limited retaliation to limited love---and, finally, with the coming of Jesus, to unlimited love came from a Pacific Southwest District Peace Camp. It struck me as a profound concept, and I wanted to be sure to include it. I especially love the opportunity to share that perspective with anyone who tries to use the Bible as justification for revenge--- and the fact "An eye for eye, and a tooth for a tooth" was actually God's call to limit payback!
I've enjoyed a number of connections with people who have been touched in some way by the bumpersticker's message. Some examples:
We have several high-profile "fans":
- Rabbi Michael Lerner, co-founder of the Network of Spiritual Progressives, asked for and received permission to use it in a full page NSP ad in the NY Times.
- Rev. Tony Campolo, upon seeing Phil and Drue Jones' T-shirts at a DC peace rally, exclaimed, "Hey! That's my favorite bumpersticker!" (Yes, Tony now has his own T-shirt to sport, as well as several staff members, who also requested their own!)
- In a recent press interview, Mike Farrell (M*A*S*H's B.J. Hunnicutt) also claimed our bumpersticker as his favorite, too! (Hmmm.... I wonder if he'd like to wear the T-shirt, as well...?)
- When I was driving Jack Canfield, co-creator of the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" series, to and from a book-signing event for our Chicken Soup for the Soul: Stories for a Better World book, I was delighted to discover that he loves it, too (see photo)!
- I was recently chatting with a Quaker sister at a peace rally. Upon learning that I had written the song from which her favorite bumpersticker was created, she exclaimed, "Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!" as she gave me an enthusiastic bear hug.
- The bumpersticker has also been shared in Europe by friends who requested several dozen to share when they visited relatives there--- yaay!
- And, I've experienced laughter as a result of people reading my bumpersticker and/or T-shirt--- in fact, one woman was actually doubled over with thigh-slapping hilarity, at what she perceived as the absurdity of the tongue-in-cheek statement!
I will be forever grateful that Bob Gross took me up on my offer for OEPA to use the song's lyrics in a bumpersticker to share Jesus' teaching, and get our beloved denomination's name out there as a PeaceChurch! And I'm grateful, too, that Bob did a wonderful job of slightly re-wording the original phrasing, to make it more ironic (the original lyrics were "... I really think he meant" rather than "... I think he probably meant"). Although, Bob, I did once get the comment that the "probably" doesn't belong on the sticker! (Clearly, the tongue-in-cheek-ness didn't register with that reader!)
May all who read it, share it, and ponder it be blessed in their efforts to be instruments of God's peace!