Prisoner 151 reporting from the White House & Washington Antiwar Protest

Photo of Prisoner 151 reporting from the White House & Washington Antiwar Protes

Dear friends,
Prisoner # 151 reporting out of the 370+ arrested in the White House protest Monday by the US Park Police.

According to the US Park Police who arrested us, this was the LARGEST number EVER arrested by the Park Police. More than 3 times what they had expected.

In the accompanying photo, you see the protest march approaching the White House. just behind the Buddhist prtests who are drumming and ringing a bell, among the front line of clergy are Rev. Dr. Cornel West of Princeton; Rev. Dr. Rita Nakashima Brock of Faith Voices for the Common Good; Imam Talib Rashid of the Mosque of Islamic Brotherhood in Harlem; Rev Walter Wink, world-renowned Christian theologian; Marie Dennis of Maryknoll and Pax Christi; Rabbi Arthur Waskow of The Shalom Center; and Rev. Osagyefu Sekou , coordinator of Cergy and Laity Concerned about Iraq (CALCI).

Cornel West was among those arrested _— I had a warm and interesting conversation with him as we marched toward 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue — and Cindy Sheehan — and Marie Dennis of the Maryknolls — and many other clergy and religious leaders, Unitarians, Quakers, Protestants, Buddhists, Catholics.

Since the police were not ready for so many of us, we were in custody from about 1 pm (still on the streets) till about 4 pm (then they handcuffed us, arms behind backs, and stored us on buses the Park Police had to requisition from DC Metro; then ultimately we were driven to the lock-up in far Anacostia. Releases, beginning about 11 p.m, went on far far into the night.

The whole weekend was extraordinary for us all. And for me, though I have lived an intense life, this weekend capped perhaps the most intense two weeks I have ever shaped a life in.
Friday afternoon, I keynoted a gathering-for-reflection of religious leaders and teachers who had been working on issues of international finance & globalization suggesting how to integrate the war and the danger of global scorching and the lightning-flash of Katrina into their work.

That evening, Rabbi David Shneyer led a strong, sweet, engaging service to welcome Shabbat. When he asked me to lead Kiddush, I retold the story of how the Prophet Natan confronted King David about his cruelty in sending the soldier Uriah to his death in battle for no "noble purpose," only in order to cover up his own arrogant lust affair with Uriah's wife Bathsheva and how what made David, despite this disgusting deed, worthy of being the ancestor of Messiah for both Jewish & Christian tradition, is that he did not refuse to see Natan but heard him out and then repented.

Compared to what? You know!

Our own Shalom Center Shabbat service on Saturday morning on the theme of "Seek Peace & Pursue It," deeply moved about 250 people, including a number of Christians who chose our service rather than ANSWER'S diatribes.

Spiritually, through chant, prayer, and music (much of it led by Rabbi Leila Berner and a number of the resident staff of Elat Chayyim Jewish Retreat Center, led especially by Mia Cohen and Rabbi David Ingber), we drew on the deepest roots of Jewish passion for peace.
The service also surfaced our concern both about demonization of Israel in parts of the Left and about the profound abandonment of Jewish values by the large Jewish organizations that have refused to speak out against the Iraq War.

Two aliyot, readings of the Torah one welcoming up into the reading those who seek to come through constriction into rebirth, turning the Tight & Narrow Place (MItzrayyim, Egypt) into a birth canal; and one about sharing our fullness (material, emotional, intellectual, spiritual) with those who have been cut off from it.

Rabbi Sidney Schwarz's powerful words of Torah about dealing with efforts to demonize Israel, yet not silencing our opposition to the war or cutting our selves off from the more decent impulses of the antiwar movement.

The march on Saturday afternoon — both deeply serious and deeply humorous, wonderfully varied and good-humored.

The gathering on Sunday of folk of many religious traditions to hear Walter Wink, a world-renowned Christian theologian, & me speak on the traditions of nonviolence in Jewish and Christian thought and practice, with many rich responses in discussion.

Then the Tent REVIVAL MEETING — a multireligious version of the classic evangelical Protestant revivals — was WONDERFUL. The different traditions and teachings meshed brilliantly, and people were indeed moved by the Spirit. I was asked to give the "invocation" — so I invoked the One God Who unfolds and is unfolded by all our traditions and who is present in all the life-forms of this planet. The God Who erupts like a volcano, like a lightning-flash of truth, when we dare to demand that a king, a ruler, meet with us face-to-face.

There were singers galore — including gospel singers, a Buddhist monk who sang Go Down Moses in such a way as to channel Harriet Tubman, the Elat Chayyim Jewish renewal staff who had sung at our Shabbat service, and many more; an amazing sermon by Rita Nakashima Brock — a scholar who brilliantly brought the crowd into roars of passion with her litany: "Mr. President, if you learned in Sunday school as I did that God is love — WHERE IS THE LOVE in your war? WHERE IS THE LOVE in your hostility to gay marriage? WHERE IS THE LOVE in your contempt for the poor?" —

And Cornel West, and Imam Talib Rashid of Harlem, and Rabbi Michael Lerner (who challenged people to look at the past failings of both the religious community and the Left), and Cindy Sheehan, and Celeste Zappala, and — and — and —

Rev Sekou deserves ENORMOUS applause for pulling it together. And for his own impassioned sermon. And for his leading people again and again in singing "This little light of mine."

And then — Sunday. The "White House 370," led by Clergy & Laity Concerned About Iraq (again, Sekou's organizing) and at least a thousand people backing us up with songs, chants, bottles of water, as we crossed the line from dissent to resistance. The brilliantly creative and down-to-earth practical work of the Pledge of Resistance and the Nonviolent Civil Resistance Committee bearing fruit.

Radical amazement. Love. Unity.

This must not be the culmination, but only the next step, in our journey to peace, to healing of the earth, to empowering the poor, to broadening social justice.

What next? Another day for that.
Today, just for a moment, dayenu! — To celebrate a spiritual victory.
Today that joy is enough for us.

Today — and then, and then, there will be tomorrow ------
Shalom, Arthur