The first in a series of five Peace Soup gatherings was held February 20 at Prince of Peace parish hall. This year the theme, "Hate Has No Home Here: Becoming Instruments of Peace" picks up on the local "Hate Has No Home Here" campaign of the Sisters of St. Francis Franciscan Peace Center that included dispensing 400 yard signs to local residents and creating an advocacy group.
The Peace Soup planning committee took the message of the campaign and made parallels to five lines from the Prayer of St. Francis: Where there is hatred, let me sow love; Where there is injury, pardon; Where there is despair, hope; Grant that I may not so much seek...to be understood as to understand; and It is in dying that we are born to eternal life.
"2018 finds us enmeshed in horrifying mass shootings, division, anger, and even hatred. Sometimes we feel that we have trouble catching our breath before another crisis explodes," said Gabriella Egging, a member of the Pax Christi Committee, a Clinton Franciscan Sojourner, and facilitator at the first session of Peace Soup. "Amidst all of this dysfunction, the Pax Christi Committee is just asking for these five weeks each of us takes a step back to look at our culture, look at own perceptions, and our own behaviors and look at them with different eyes and with a different heart."
In the first session titled "Where there is hatred, let me sow love" Egging gave a talk with the aid of a PowerPoint about culture and hate, pointing out that members of a culture will comply with ideas in order to have a sense of belonging, what leads to hate, what motivates hate crimes, and how hate becomes normalized. She also offered constructive responses to increase understanding and empathy.
Egging introduced a new element to Peace Soup this year - table talks - discussions about related questions. How do you see these origins of division in our world, life, community? What are some underlying values that we want to build into our culture? What seeds of love must I plant in our culture? A talking stick was provided to each table and passed to each person symbolizing his/her turn to speak. A moment was taken to reflect before the next person spoke, and participants were asked to pose questions for the sake of clarification only.
The next Peace Soup will take place on Tuesday, February 27 at 6 p.m. at Prince of Peace parish hall, 1105 LaMetta Wynn Drive, and will focus on the power of forgiveness. The March 6 session will focus on hope in seemingly hopeless situations, while the March 13 will highlight communication and the strain it can cause a relationship, and the final session on March 20 will examine the struggle of our Christian beliefs finding a voice in the current American culture.
Peace Soup is sponsored by the Sisters of St. Francis and Prince of Peace parish's Pax Christi, both of Clinton.
Highlights from the February 20 Peace Soup
Downward causation and what leads to hate
Downward causation means that even though the system or culture wouldn't exist without all the parts, once it does exist, it subjugates all the parts. All the parts begin to participate in patterns of behavior often foreign to them as individuals. Most of us ADAPT in order to belong even though the values and actions of this new culture contradict our personal values. We COMPLY in order to belong or because we dislike confrontation.
What leads to hate
Journalists and researchers have given us concrete ways that a culture of anger, distrust, and even hate become ingrained and inculcated into a society. These aren't my words, these are what the researchers say. This is what scientists are saying.
When we dehumanize the other it gives us tacit permission to harm the other. It's not a far stretch when we dehumanize the other. It gives credence to our belief that since the other is wrong and not like us, they may not be fully human. They may not be as morally upright as we are. When a mob dehumanizes another life, the normal human revulsion against murder no longer exists. Do you see that in our society?
Instead of taking any ownership of where we are, we frame each other as an outsider or enemy. In the culture of hate it is easier to reject the other than to work to understand their point-of-view, their history, or to listen to their stories.
We think that hostility toward an outside group will add to the cohesion of the "in" group. Victims are identified and separated because of their ethnic background, their political background, or their religious background. There are many others, those are just three. It becomes all about MY family, OUR group, OUR church, OUR political party, OUR race. It becomes about protecting MY beliefs for MY tribe.
We've all seen polarizing propaganda in flyers, pamphlets, social media, websites and "fake news." By using the same phrases, the same litany of grievances or quotes from the Bible even, it exonerates them. "We have the whole truth and nothing but the truth." This is the hate groups' manner of operation. It's their modus operandi. Their members are commanded to not stray from the message. How often have we been told that? "Now don't say anything different than this." Say something long enough and loud enough it often leads to conviction of the mind and the heart. So what my mouth confesses my heart professes. We have to be careful of that.
Permission to destroy the enemy
That's harsh but that's exactly what it is. When polarization and dehumanization are abundant and ubiquitous, everywhere, we convince ourselves that we're doing good by calling to task, bringing our family, community, or church or politics of these people or of this thought process. When we view the other as wrong or very different from ourselves, hate can and does emerge. What begins as the other quickly becomes the "beast." Any perceived threat to our tribe arouses in us a desire for revenge and most of tend to pursue revenge with a fury to eliminate the threat against the good.
What motivates hate crimes?
Statistics show that RACE is the most common motivating factor in hate crime offenses, a whopping 61% (60% are targeted against blacks). RELIGION is the next most common target at 14%. SEXUAL ORIENTATION is next with 13%. ETHNICITY with 11% and VICTIMS WITH A DISABILITY are last with 1%.
"Culture changes through emergence and increments," says researcher/author Margaret Wheatley. Once a culture of beliefs exists you cannot work backwards. We must follow quickly on the heels of the bad and change it to the positive. We must begin a new narrative to create a new culture.
Examine the evidence more carefully. Interpret the evidence from a more compassionate point of view. Increase our understanding and empathy for those we have labeled "enemy." Adopt a humanistic perspective. Recognize the universal similarities of all humans. Father Richard Rohr says, "It is important that we name evil for evil but it is equally important that we name the innate goodness and relationship between ALL of us, all of creation." Let empathy, caring, and compassion come alive in our head, heart, and actions. Work to transform enemies into friends.
Over time, 44 clansmen and women have given blues musician Daryl Davis their KKK robes, symbolic of a shift in beliefs due to his friendship. https://www.cnn.com/videos/us/2017/12/15/charlottesville-hearing-latest-sidner-erin-dnt.cnn
Donations given at Peace Soup
Peace Soup is free and open to the public with a free will offering to benefit the Vinson H. Jetter Community Center of Clinton. Tara Jetter, niece of the late Vinson Jetter, spoke briefly on behalf of the center at the February 20 session. Though she spoke of her uncle being "taken from us much too soon," she was encouraged by the work the center does. "We bring in a lot of people and organizations from the community," Jetter said, "Everything is free. We do a basketball tournament and get the kids and everybody involved to be safe and nonviolent throughout the summer." Jetter also mentioned the center's involvement in the free pumpkin decorating contest in the fall and the Soul Food Dinner fundraiser to be held May 18.