A Persistent Peace: One Man's Struggle for a Nonviolent World [NOOK Book]

Overview

Praise for John Dear and A Persistent Peace

“John Dear understands that peacemaking is not a part-time job. . . . John has walked the talk for years, an inspiration to all of us to do more than we think we can.”
    —Jim Wallis, author of The Great Awakening and president, Sojourners

“John Dear has been arrested in the cause of peace and human decency more times than anyone else I know. I am honored to consider him a friend.”
...

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A Persistent Peace: One Man's Struggle for a Nonviolent World

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Overview

Praise for John Dear and A Persistent Peace

“John Dear understands that peacemaking is not a part-time job. . . . John has walked the talk for years, an inspiration to all of us to do more than we think we can.”
    —Jim Wallis, author of The Great Awakening and president, Sojourners

“John Dear has been arrested in the cause of peace and human decency more times than anyone else I know. I am honored to consider him a friend.”
    —Joan Baez, singer and peace activist

“John Dear is a great spiritual progressive leader whose wisdom, courage, and gentleness make him one of the most beloved teachers of nonviolence in America. . . . Reading this book will make you less lonely by knowing that you’re sharing your time on earth with John Dear.”
    —Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine

“Look, I know this guy. He’s real; and he shows that it’s possible for ordinary folks to really live Jesus’ call to be peacemakers. . . . Prepare your own heart as you open this book.”
    —Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ, author of Dead Man Walking

“John Dear’s life story is inspiring and heartwarming.”
    —Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States

Praise for John Dear and A Persistent Peace

“John Dear understands that peacemaking is not a part-time job. . . . John has walked the talk for years, an inspiration to all of us to do more than we think we can.”
    —Jim Wallis, author of The Great Awakening and president, Sojourners

“John Dear has been arrested in the cause of peace and human decency more times than anyone else I know. I am honored to consider him a friend.”
    —Joan Baez, singer and peace activist

“John Dear is a great spiritual progressive leader whose wisdom, courage, and gentleness make him one of the most beloved teachers of nonviolence in America. . . . Reading this book will make you less lonely by knowing that you’re sharing your time on earth with John Dear.”
    —Rabbi Michael Lerner, editor of Tikkun magazine

“Look, I know this guy. He’s real; and he shows that it’s possible for ordinary folks to really live Jesus’ call to be peacemakers. . . . Prepare your own heart as you open this book.”
    —Sr. Helen Prejean, CSJ, author of Dead Man Walking

“John Dear’s life story is inspiring and heartwarming.”
    —Howard Zinn, author of A People’s History of the United States

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Editorial Reviews

Colman McCarthy
[a] stirring and literate account of a conscience at work
—The Washington Post
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780829430523
  • Publisher: Loyola Press
  • Publication date: 6/1/2010
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 456
  • File size: 4 MB

Meet the Author

John Dear, SJ, is a Jesuit priest, peace activist, organizer, lecturer, and retreat leader. He is also the author/editor of twenty books on peace and nonviolence. John was recently nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize by Archbishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa. John lives in northern New Mexico. Visit his Web site at www.persistentpeace.com.

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Read an Excerpt

A PERSISTENT PEACE ONE MAN'S STRUGGLE FOR A NONVIOLENT WORLD
By JOHN DEAR
Loyola Press
Copyright © 2008 John Dear
All right reserved.

ISBN: 978-0-8294-2720-2



Chapter One Frat Boy (1978-79)

If you had stopped in Durham, North Carolina, on a Friday night in 1979 and walked across the green lawns of Duke University, past the gothic buildings and the towering cathedral, under the stone arches, across the quad, and through Kappa Sigma's wooden door into the din of the never-ending fraternity party, you would have found me-the life of the party, in the center of the throng of men and women drinking, eating, singing, and dancing-getting the beer-chugging contest under way and tossing pints down the hatch. My record: thirty-two in one night.

At the time, it seemed like fun. But the hangovers! They lasted for days. Such was the life of the best and the brightest, the cream of the crop, the spoiled, wealthy frat boy. I arrived at Duke, in January 1978, much more temperate. I spent my first semester learning the ropes and finding my way around campus. People at Duke were friendly but serious, focused, and smart. I decided early on to sign up with the professors who had the best reputations, and whatever subject I ended up having the most credits in would be the subject I would declare as my major. I ended up majoring in African-American history.

Duke didn't allow juniors and seniors to live in campus dorms. To stay on campus, you had to move into a fraternity house; otherwise, you had to move off campus and rentan apartment in Durham. The autumn of my sophomore year, my roommate Doug and I made the rounds of the frat houses and attended the weekend rush parties. We decided on Kappa Sigma. In January 1979, we moved in as pledges, and the partying began in earnest.

Kappa Sigma made John Belushi's Animal House seem like kindergarten. I studied all day, spent hours at the piano, and stayed up late into the next morning doing more than my share of drinking. I don't know when I ever slept.

The fraternity brothers treated us pledges as lackeys. We had to jump through hoops to get every fraternity brother's signature in our pledge books, a process that lasted the whole semester. To earn a signature, we had to fulfill some demeaning task for the brothers: clean their rooms, wash their cars, type their papers, or fetch tennis balls during their matches. They ordered us around and called us names, and we obediently complied-up to a point. The pledges appointed me "Secretary of War," and my job was to strategize battle against the brothers. Under my command we waged mischief and mayhem, risking demerits and at times expulsion. Still the brothers held the upper hand, gathering us pledges once a month for an evening of humiliation and abuse, lining us up against the wall for hours and calling us every name in the book. Our pledging ordeal ended with the infamous Hell Night, held in April. The following week, with the necessary signatures collected-and grateful to be alive-we were blindfolded, sworn to secrecy, and initiated.

I never did understand how my fraternity brothers managed to do so well in school. They partied all night, every night and still got straight As. Our fraternity had the highest grade point average on campus. We had a file cabinet full of stock term papers, available to anyone who wanted to copy them, but that doesn't entirely explain why the brothers were so successful. They were hard partying, hard drinking, hard studying, hardworking, and brilliant. When I was still a pledge, a senior frat brother reproached me for being insouciant. Insouciant? What did that mean? Who were these guys? Today, most of them are CEOs, lawyers, bankers, and doctors, some of them millionaires. One uses a private jet.

The most fascinating of all was Paul Farmer. He came from a large family that lived on a houseboat in Florida. Paul was a flat-out genius. A premed student who also majored in anthropology, Paul wrote his mother every day, composed theater and book reviews every week for the Duke newspaper, The Chronicle, and produced displays for the main entrance to Perkins Library, one of the largest in the country. Each evening he hosted marathon parties in his rooms for dozens of students. It seemed that Paul never studied, yet he earned straight A's. He went on to Harvard Medical School, became a leading researcher there, and founded a clinic for the poor in Haiti. His example inspires countless other doctors to serve the third world poor. His story was told in the best-selling book, Mountains beyond Mountains: The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer. He has become our own Albert Schweitzer. But even back then in college, we were in awe of him.

* * *

In those days, I pondered three possible careers. I could become a newspaper publisher like my father, his father, and his grandfather or a lawyer like my high school friends Chas and Mark. Mostly, though, I wanted to be a rock star.

My friends still laugh at my grandiose ambition, but I was serious. I wanted to compose my own songs, record as a solo artist, and move to Los Angeles and live like Jackson Browne or James Taylor. I had been playing the piano seriously since I was six and had taken up the guitar at ten. At Duke, I spent a lot of time in their new music building, with its more than forty music studios, two performance spaces, recording studio, and extensive music library. Years earlier, one of my brothers and I had built a primitive recording studio in our basement by connecting tape players and attaching microphones to them. He played drums and bass guitar; I played piano and acoustic guitar and sang.

At Duke I studied classical piano, learning my way around Beethoven, Mozart, Rachmaninoff, and Brahms. I spent four hours a day practicing. I also played pop music and wrote my own songs. I loved the Beatles and the Beach Boys and all the singer-songwriters of the 1970s-Billy Joel, Jackson Browne, Elton John, James Taylor, Dan Fogelberg, and Graham Nash-and I tried to write like them. After a few months, I had several dozen good songs, and in the midst of my busy class schedule and crazy fraternity life, I drove off one night to a recording studio about two hours west of Raleigh. It was an unimpressive building, its interior walls lined with orange shag carpeting. But it was filled with the latest musical recording equipment, and there in the center of the studio was a magnificent grand piano. I recorded seven or eight songs, handling all the parts myself. Afterward, my friend Margaret and I bought a bottle of wine, and stayed up late in my fraternity room listening to the tapes. The experience of recording my own music was one of the most exciting of my life. That night, I dreamt of becoming a successful singer-songwriter.

It was through my love of music that I befriended one of the most influential people in my life, the legendary jazz pianist Mary Lou Williams. During my time at Duke, she was artist in residence, and her jazz classes were the most popular on campus. I signed up, and on the first day of class, nearly a hundred of us crowded nervously in the seashell auditorium where the orchestra rehearsed. Down below in the center was a gleaming black grand piano. Mary Lou was late. When she finally walked in, the room became quiet. She was a big woman with dark skin and black hair. She was dressed in black, and pinned to her dress was a large black papier-mâché rose. Without saying a word, she ambled toward the piano, looked around the room, and threw us a smile. Then she sat down and started to play. We were instantly mesmerized.

Her story is just as extraordinary as her music. She started playing piano at the age of three and joined a jazz tour at twelve. She played with Duke Ellington when she was sixteen. She joined Andy Kirk's band, Twelve Clouds of Joy, in the 1930s, leaving in the 1940s to settle in Harlem, where she played at every well-known jazz club. She counted Billie Holiday and Dizzy Gillespie among her best friends and appeared with Dizzy at the Newport Jazz Festival. Plus, she composed and arranged music. She wrote for Louis Armstrong, Tommy Dorsey, and Benny Goodman, compiling a body of work that included more than 350 pieces. At the height of her career, she performed three movements of her classic Zodiac Suite with the New York Pops Orchestra at Carnegie Hall.

Then, in the mid-1950s, she converted to Catholicism and gave up music. She decided not to have a family but to spend the rest of her life in contemplative prayer and humble service to the poor. Her musician friends were stunned. But at St. Ignatius Loyola Church on Park Avenue, where she attended daily Mass, she met an astute Jesuit who convinced her to return to music as a way to serve people and inspire them to love one another. So she scored a Catholic Mass with jazz music that became the first jazz Mass performed at St. Patrick's Cathedral. Every year she performed for Dorothy Day at the Catholic Worker farm in New Jersey. All the while, she continued to pray for several hours each day.

"Jazz is love," she told us that first day of class. "You have to feel the love in the music. It will make you into a more loving person and bring joy into your life." We were beguiled. Through her music, Mary Lou taught us jaded Duke students about the spiritual life. She imparted love through boogie-woogie.

I wanted to learn from Mary Lou, so I went up to her after class one day, introduced myself, and asked if she would give me private lessons. She agreed on the spot.

For several months, I took the bus each week to her house, on the outskirts of Durham, where we sat on a small bench before her modest upright and together played jazz. Her hands stretched well over an octave. She taught me the finer points of syncopation and the emotion behind the diminished seventh chord. She showed me how to make my left hand lope along on bass while my right jingled some kind of melody. She tried to teach me improvisation. She would play a riff and then ask me to repeat it. I would try but never quite get it right.

I treasured those hours with Mary Lou, who became a true friend to me. One day, she presented me with a jazz piece she'd written for me. Her love, joy, and sense of wonder touched me deeply. Even then, early in my own spiritual formation, I recognized that this woman was filled with the Holy Spirit. And although it was her music that drew me, it was her holiness that captured me and set me spinning.

* * *

Each May as the school year came to an end, all the Duke fraternities and sororities spent a wild week at Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. When finals ended in the spring of 1979, I headed off to the party. I remember only parts of it. We drank all night and slept all day on the beach. On one of those nights, my friend Digger and I drank ourselves sick on Schnapps. Later, the temperature dropped, and chilly strong winds blew in from the ocean. By the time I returned home to Bethesda, Maryland, for the summer, I had developed a bad case of bronchitis, and the doctor ordered prolonged bed rest. I ended up in bed for over a month. My brothers were off at camp or at work, my father downtown at the National Press Club. My mother was in Baltimore teaching at Johns Hopkins. Alone at home, I faced a long summer.

I also faced myself. Lying around gave me the space to reflect on my life. In searching the house for something to read, I came upon my father's copy of Arthur Schlesinger's massive biography of Bobby Kennedy, Robert Kennedy and His Times. Once I opened it, I couldn't put it down. As I read about the assassinations of Robert Kennedy and Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., the emotions I felt as a boy when those events occurred rushed over me like a tidal wave.

To be honest, I was much more interested in Bobby than in John Kennedy, because after his brother's death, Bobby Kennedy clearly changed. As Jack Newfield wrote in Robert Kennedy: A Memoir, Bobby Kennedy underwent an inner transformation that began with searing grief and soul-searching prayer and led to an unusual sense of compassion for the poor. He took up poetry, pondered the eternal questions, and began to expand his horizons. Eventually, he stood with César Chávez and the United Farm Workers, attended Dr. King's funeral, and spoke out vehemently against the Vietnam War. He talked about the need for justice in a way that few politicians had ever done before, or have since.

On the night of Dr. King's assassination, April 4, 1968, Bobby Kennedy spoke to a crowd of African-Americans in inner-city Indianapolis. After he told the stunned crowd that Dr. King had been killed, he spoke extemporaneously about the need for compassion:

Martin Luther King dedicated his life to love and to justice for his fellow human beings, and he died because of that effort....

In this difficult time for the United States, it is perhaps well to ask what kind of a nation we are and what direction we want to move in. For those of you who are black ... you can be filled with bitterness, with hatred, and a desire for revenge.... Or we can make an effort, as Martin Luther King did, to understand and to comprehend and to replace that violence, that stain of bloodshed that has spread across our land, with ... compassion and love.... What we need in the United States is not division ... not hatred ... not violence ... but love and wisdom, and compassion toward one another, and a feeling of justice toward those who still suffer within our country, whether they be white or they be black.... Let us dedicate ourselves to what the Greeks wrote so many years ago: to tame the savageness of man and make gentle the life of this world.

The next day, in Cleveland, Kennedy gave a clear denunciation of violence. "What has violence ever accomplished?" he asked. "What has it ever created? No martyr's cause has ever been stilled by an assassin's bullet.... Violence breeds violence, repression brings retaliation, and only a cleansing of our whole society can remove this sickness from our soul."

As I lay there with a bad case of bronchitis blues, Kennedy's words flowered within me. He awakened in me a passion for life and peace. I could identify with him because we both came from white, upper-class, well-educated, ambitious Catholic families. But now we had something else in common: I aspired to reach the same sort of inner transformation that he had experienced between his brother's assassination and his own death. Now, a decade later, Bobby Kennedy was drawing me to a larger vision of life, to a wider compassion for humanity that he had edged toward by 1968.

And all of a sudden, I could see. I could see not only the immorality of violence, but also its impracticality. I could see the precariousness of life. I could see again how precious life is. And there in bed I made a clear decision to reject violence as best I could.

What most disturbed me was the injustice of it all. Bobby Kennedy, the nation's best and brightest, had died for declaring ideals of justice and peace, as had Dr. King. What chance did anyone have to make this country more just? How would anyone ever again offer honest political leadership? Why even go to law school? Or seek a career in politics, the media, or law? Why try to make a difference at all?

These questions only deepened with each biography I read of Kennedy and Dr. King. The stories of their lives rocked my presuppositions about life, work, purpose, and death. They turned my life plans upside down and set me on an entirely new path.

Chapter Two The Day of Conversion (1979-80)

By the end of June I had recovered from bronchitis. To earn some money for my junior year, I took the first job I could find, on a construction crew. I got the grunt work: picking up trash, digging ditches, pouring cement, raking yards, and chopping down trees.

As the school year approached, I decided that I would not apply to law school. Nor would I go into the family publishing business. My heart and mind were restless, and I needed to set out on a new search. This was hard, and it made my return to classes unsettling. I continued composing and recording, but I didn't know where I was headed.

Even my musical hopes were in jeopardy. I joined the student association that organized concerts on campus, and the first concert that year featured Livingston Taylor, who was James Taylor's younger brother and had a hit song on the radio that year. After the show, I found him alone in his dressing room and introduced myself as an aspiring singer-songwriter. Then I asked, "What advice do you have for me about going professional?"

He sat down, looked me in the eye, and said, "Don't do it. The music industry is totally corrupt. It isn't at all what people think. It's very difficult to make it. You have to travel endlessly and sell yourself out. Don't do it unless you absolutely have to, unless you have no other choice." I mumbled my thanks and walked out in shocked silence. That Christmas, a musician friend, Bob, and I went to New York City and left some cassettes of our music with Elektra/Asylum Records. As I recall, they wrote us with interest, but neither of us pursued it.

Meanwhile, my class work grew more demanding. I was working hard for several extraordinary history professors. One of them, Anne Firor Scott, was a leading feminist historian. She taught American social history and spent years studying the diaries of ordinary Americans from the late 1700s. She copied dozens of them, had them bound, and assigned them as our readings instead of textbooks. The ordinary voices on those pages, written during the American Revolution, sounded like those of any struggling person today, and I was deeply moved by their humanity. But as I had during my bed rest over the summer, I was struck by the mystery of death. Those voices were long ago silenced. Where were they now? Were they alive in some distant heaven? Had they vanished forever?

(Continues...)



Excerpted from A PERSISTENT PEACE by JOHN DEAR Copyright © 2008by John Dear.Excerpted by permission.
All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.
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Table of Contents

Contents Foreword by Martin Sheen....................ix Introduction....................xv
1 Frat Boy (1978-79)....................1
2 The Day of Conversion (1979-80)....................10
3 The Journey Begins (1980-81)....................21
4 Under Arrest at the Vatican (1981)....................32
5 Pilgrimage to the Holy Land (1982)....................38
6 A Second Calling, in Galilee (1982)....................47
7 Jesuit Boot Camp (1982)....................53
8 Learning the Life of Peace (1982)....................62
9 Thirty Days of Silence (1983)....................71
10 The Experiment, Phase One (1983)....................81
11 The Experiment, Phase Two (1983)....................86
12 First Blood (1983-84)....................96
13 Lenten Wednesdays at the Pentagon (1984)....................106
14 Peacemaking in New York City (1984-85)....................117
15 In the Land of the Savior (1985)....................127
16 Taking a Stand in Nicaragua, at the Pentagon, and at West Point (1985)....................140
17 Disturbing the Peace in Scranton (1986-87)....................148
18 Community and Jail in New York (1987-88)....................156
19 With the Homeless in Washington, DC (1988-89)....................165
20 Theology and Vision at Berkeley (1989)....................176
21 November 16, the Kairos Moment (1989)....................186
22 The Fast (1990)....................191
23 Zones of Peace (1990)....................196
24 Death Row and Mother Teresa (1990)....................201
25 War in Iraq, Resistance in the Streets (1991-92)....................210
26 Ordained to Make Peace(1992-93)....................222
27 Down by the Riverside (1993)....................235
28 They Shall Beat Their Swords into Plowshares (1993-94)....................239
29 In Jail, on Trial (1994)....................247
30 Waiting in My Cell (1994)....................256
31 From House Arrest to Rome (1994-95)....................262
32 Trouble at the Smithsonian (1994-95)....................273
33 In Richmond, at the Sacred Heart Center (1995-96)....................280
34 Peace in Northern Ireland (1997-98)....................286
35 The Fellowship of Reconciliation (1998-2000)....................302
36 Peace Mission to Iraq (1999)....................311
37 Return to Palestine (1999)....................324
38 The Great Forty Days for Peace (2000)....................331
39 Death and the Tombs of New York (2000-1)....................335
40 Life and Death at Ground Zero (2001)....................342
41 Kicked out of New York (2002)....................362
42 Pastor in New Mexico (2002-4)....................369
43 A Voice in the Desert (2002-4)....................383
44 Disturber of the Peace (2002-5)....................392
45 Sackcloth and Ashes in Los Alamos (2002-5)....................406
46 Soldiers at My Front Door (2003)....................416
Epilogue....................421
Acknowledgments....................427
Index....................431
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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 22, 2011

    Hypocrisy

    A long time reader of John dears books and views. He talks about peace and end to all wars but denounces Israel for attacks on Palestinians and not denouncing terrorist attacks on Israelis. The author condems the Jewish state and seems to have very anti semetic views towards Jews in all of his books. The author has socialist views, denounces right wingers and claims to be a man of GOD and church while never mentions the abortion issue. HYPOCORISY at its worst.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 12, 2009

    Incredible read for those wanted to stand up for justice issues.

    AN extreme in being a fighter for justice (all the arrests) but an eye opener of the realities in our world. I teach a social justice class and this is perfect.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2008

    I Also Recommend:

    True advocate of Peace

    I had marched against the Vietnam War, for equal rights and I am a 14 year volunteer at a shelter for victims of domestic violence and sexual assault. I found this book to be inspirational. John Dear is a true advocate of Peace. <BR/>I have learned so much more about nonviolence and ways to work toward a more peaceful world and inner self from John Dear. I was also surprised to learn more about Bishop Emeritis Walter Sullivan from Richmond VA and his work at Pax Christi. I am inspired by John Dear and his work toward Peace an important part of Catholic Social teaching.<BR/>I highly recomend this book to all that seek a more peaceful world.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 13, 2008

    No text was provided for this review.

  • Anonymous

    Posted April 5, 2009

    No text was provided for this review.

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