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This article is being written on February 22nd, 1998. It is a lightly edited transcript of the sermon I gave today at the Community Miracles Center in San Francisco. I know that this sermon and article are time sensitive. By the time you read this, three weeks will have gone by and the world situation will have changed. The words written here may seem out dated by then. However, I think they represent something that transcends the particular events they speak of, so I offer them in the context of the universal rather than the specific. Let us engage in the question, "Should we pray for something we would like to have happen in this world because we believe it will be in line with *A Course In Miracles* and it's basic message of peace and love of brother and sister?" Questions like these are at the heart of our spiritual practice.)

I think this is a very interesting time in the world.

President Bill ClintonAs many of you know I follow the news. I like to relate my own Course practice to world events, the things going on. This seems to be an increasing tendency for me as I practice the Course because, possibly, I no longer see such a separation between myself and the world I'm in. I feel part of the world. I'm interested in what's going on.

The big news, of course, is the Iraqi situation. I want to talk about that today. As we gather this morning, the United States armed forces are mobilizing their high tech weaponry and troops and sending them over into the Persian gulf with the real possibility of having bombing raids - air strikes on Iraq. This is disturbing to lots of people. It's disturbing to me. It's something that the world is watching. As we speak, right now, I'm sure that there are military professionals preparing strategies about possible campaigns of air strikes, possible retaliations by Iraq and what to do in case. I envision those people in their think tanks, wherever they are: drawing up their plans, trying to decide how smart the "smart bombs" are, trying to figure out the effectiveness of an air strike.

I have a lot of suspicion about this whole event. I think the Iraqi crisis came too close on the heels of the Monica Lewenski scandal, a little too soon for my comfort. The thought occurs that this is just what President Clinton needed in order to get the public's mind off his sex scandal. A couple of weeks ago I saw the movie Wag the Dog and, of course, that's what that movie was about. The president in the movie was involved in a sex scandal and the powers that be drummed up a global crisis situation so the public wouldn't be as concerned with the sex scandal. I don't know how much my suspicion is justified. I don't know the answers to any of these political questions. I just know that those ideas cross my mind.

Yesterday morning, when I logged onto the Internet, within the course of an hour four different people e-mailed me a letter that Marianne Williamson had sent out to a variety of media outlets. It spoke of how Marianne, along with Neale Donald Walsch (the author of Conversations with God) and James Redfield (author of The Celestine Prophesy) were having an event in Washington DC that day at 5:30 pm to pray for divine resolution of the Iraqi situation. Marianne Williamson was asking spiritual people, Miracles people all over the world, to join her, Neale Donald Walsh and James Redfield at those times, and subsequent times afterwards, for a real prayer for peace. Beverly Hutchinson, down at the Miracles Distribution Center in Fullerton got on the bandwagon and sent the letter out to everyone on her e-mail list and talked about what they were doing to support this prayer for peace.

I think this is a great idea and also very in-line with A Course In Miracles. In the reading from the Course that we heard this morning there is the quote, "We are the bringers of salvation. We accept our part as saviors of the world which through our joint forgiveness is redeemed." (W 469/479) We are those people, those minds, that energy that does bring salvation to the world and we do whatever we can in order to be a force of peace in the world. Certainly praying for peace and praying for a peaceful resolution of this conflict is something all of us should really be thinking about. Thinking about what we can do personally.

However, I still have very ambivalent feelings about the whole idea of praying for peace. "Ambivalent", for those unfamiliar with the word, means two values. In another words, I think positively about praying for peace and also I have some reservations. One of my main reservations is that all too often, when we think of this idea of praying for peace, we have very definite imagery in our minds as to what that means. Of course, if we're going to pray for peace what we are really praying for, or what most are praying for, is that President Clinton and the U.S. decide that we won't go bomb Iraq. We think that's what praying for peace means. If the U.S. does bomb Iraq, we will think our prayers didn't work and we will probably be discouraged. I'm not so sure that's what anybody should be doing. I think praying for peace is a much more general context of energy, not a specific prayer for a specific action, or in this case, "non-action." Actually, I think we, in our limited sense, don't know what the right action truly is in this situation and actually we want a lot of different things all at the same time. We would serve ourselves and the situation better, if we realized this and understood how confused we are and how little we actually know of the situation. The Course teaches us, "Remember how many times you thought you knew all the 'facts' you needed for judgment, and how wrong you were! Would you know how many times you merely thought you were right, without ever realizing you were wrong?" ( M 26/28)

Lesson 24, "I do not perceive my own best interests", is also very important to remember in times like these. "If these exercises are done properly, you will quickly recognize that you are making a large number of demands of the situation . You will also recognize that many of your goals are contradictory and that you must experience disappointment in connection with some of your goals, however the situation turns out." (W 37/37) We do not perceive our own best interests in any situation in which we are disturbed, and I know that many people are disturbed about the the possibility of bombing another country, about the possibility of retaliation. In any situation like that what we have to understand is, we don't know our own best interests. Our prayer for peace has to be a prayer for our own peace and for a general context for peace. How peace works itself out in the sequence of events is something none of us can know and decide. If we focus on particular events, such as "we do not bomb", as what it means to have peace, then I think we set up what the Workbook lesson talks about. We will experience some disappointment however the situation works out. What we truly want is a context, not particular actions.

All of us are spiritual people. We have a knee jerk reaction to these kinds of things. That's to be expected. No spiritual person wants to think that America is going to bomb Iraq! The trouble I have with that is spiritual people often end up making the same mistake government leaders make. We think we know what is the best thing to do. We think the best thing to do is not bomb, not to take a posture of aggression. We think because we're spiritual people we know this is what is right. The whole idea of believing we know what is right behaviorally, is the same problem that Saddam Hussein has. It's the same problem that President Clinton has and it's the same problem that the officials in the United Nations have. Everybody has an opinion and they think they know what is the right thing for somebody else to do. However, we (as spiritual people in a crisis situation) need to know that we don't know what is the right thing to do. All we can know is that the right energy is just to allow love and peace to flow through us and allow God, Holy Spirit to do His/Her work in the world however God, Holy Spirit is guided to do it. We don't know specifically what that is. We can't know best. We can't know all the different possibilities, all the different outcomes that result from any situation and action. We have to trust the Holy Spirit who has the better overview. We know that is what will strengthen if we focus on our own peace.

A Course In Miracles talks about the condition the world is in. It talks about how the world, as of yet, is not in a healed state. "The world has not yet experienced any comprehensive reawakening or rebirth." (T 15/18) What we know about the world is there are many people still in fear, separation and lack. When people are in these states, what happens when things are too quickly moved along, is that fear based people tend to react fearfully. "For fear's defenses are fearful in themselves, and when they are recognized they bring their fear with them." (S 5/10) Fear's defenses, when removed, butt us right up against the fear we were trying to hide from. If, suddenly, the United States adopted a posture of extreme pacifism, there would be a lot of people in the world not ready for that posture and they would be pushed right up against their fears. They would probably react negatively. The backlash could be much worse than the problem at hand. The COURSE tells us, " frightened people can be vicious." (T 33/37) I don't think we want to do anything that will frighten people. We need to understand there are a lot of people on both sides of this discussion who are very frightened. We do not want to take a stance that just increases their fear. We want to be a source of healing and true peace and allow the Holy Spirit to heal their fears by working within them.

I've felt for a long time that this is something that the pacifists, while I appreciate and agree with their points of view, never quite realize. The extreme position prompts an extreme reaction in the mind of those who do not agree and what we get is "yin / yanging" back and forth without much real progress. Maybe the middle road, the compromise approach, understanding what our role is, and isn't, is really the greatest thing to do. For the people still in fear, proposing to dissolve the armies of the world is a little ridiculous. It's too much of our saying that we are in a state that we are not, and I don't think A Course In Miracles is about doing that. The COURSE states, "Fear not that you will be abruptly lifted up and hurled into reality. Time is kind, and if you use it on behalf of reality, it will keep gentle pace with you in your transition. The urgency is only in dislodging your mind from its fixed position here." (T 322/346) I think many pacifists have as much of a fixed position as the hawks and the war mongers. All those passionately involved tend to fix their position. The real healing would be to release all of those, focus on the peace and the love that has to be the truth for everybody involved and allow the Holy Spirit to work through everybody in his or her own individual way.

Something that always comes to mind when situations like this come up is an old Star Trek episode. Most of you who know me know I'm a Star Trek fan. The episode I'm thinking of is a very popular episode from the first series of Star Trek and it's one of the episodes that always is talked about as one of the all time favorites. It's okay if you don't know the episode, I'll explain enough about it. The name of it is "City on the Edge of Forever." It's the episode that stars a young Joan Collins long before her role on Dynasty. The episode involves Captain Kirk and first officer Spock getting transported back in time to the United States shortly before World War II broke out. They interact with a woman, Joan Collins, who is working as a person helping the poor and also active in the anti-war movement. Through her interaction with Kirk and Spock a possibility is set up where she is able to strengthen her anti-war activities and because of that, the possibility exists that she is able to delay the United States from entering World War II. The subsequent effect of this hundreds of years later in Star Trek time is that Hitler would have won the war and the galaxy is in a repressed state, with no starships traveling to other planets and no Federation of Planets extending it's message of oneness and cooperation all throughout the galaxy. All this would transpire because the United States and the Allies would not have won the war. This presents Kirk and Spock with a dilemma about what to do with their interaction with Joan Collins. Will they let her die, in an accident as she was destined to? Or will they save her life as they could, but then alter all of history causing a new negative future to happen? The interesting thing about that episode is that in all of the outward manifestations of Kirk and Spock interacting with Joan Collins it seems as if she is doing the right, peaceful thing. She's a wonderful loving person; she's a pacifist. She doesn't want war, and of course this seems to be the blessed thing to do, but what she doesn't know is the drastic consequences this causes to the universe hundreds of years later. Luckily Mister Spock figures things out and they alter how they relate to her and actually have to watch her die as she was originally destined to, instead of saving her.

This is a good example for us all to remember. It's easy for all of us to say that we never should drop bombs, but do we really know what the drastic consequences of all of these actions might be hundreds of years from now, or even just 10 years from now? Are we in a position to make these judgements? Do we know our own best interests? "In order to judge anything rightly, one would have to be fully aware of an inconceivably wide range of things; past, present and to come. One would have to recognize in advance all the effects of his judgments on everyone and everything involved in them in any way. And one would have to be certain there is no distortion in his perception, so that his judgment would be wholly fair to everyone on whom it rests now and in the future. Who is in a position to do this? Who except in grandiose fantasies would claim this for himself?" (M 26/27) I certainly am not in this position, and I'm glad I'm not in the position of anybody who has to make these decisions. I greatfully release this duty to the people who have much more information and skill than I have about these matters.

However, I do know that I am in a position of being a force for light and peace in this world. Yes, I want to pray for peace. And the peace I want to pray for is my own. The Course tells us quite clearly, "It is from your peace of mind that a peaceful perception of the world arises." (W 51/51) I want to pray that I can find a peaceful way to perceive the situation and I want to pray that all of the people who are involved find their own center and thusly function form their own guidance so Holy Spirit is served and not the ego. I find ego definitely at work on both sides of the fence. The Course also tells us quite clearly, "The sole responsibility of the miracle worker is to accept the Atonement for himself." (T 22/25) It's not for us to accept the Atonement for Clinton or Hussein. It's up to us to accept the Atonement for us! We have to accept that we can find a peaceful way to interact with the world and these events. It's not our job to get Clinton to do any particular thing.

Going back to the first quote that was highlighted in the reading we again read, "We are the bringers of salvation. We accept our part as saviors of the world, which through our joint forgiveness is redeemed." (W 469/479) What's being called upon for us is to be forgiving. Whatever our perceptions are we need to offer them up, give them up to the Holy Spirit and ask for a new perception to come to us with which we really can be at peace. If we have negative interpretations of Hussein, negative interpretations of Clinton, it's always up to us. It's our job as saviors of the world to forgive those, to offer them up. To find a positive way of looking at these people and trust because we are giving, feeding, positive energy the Holy Spirit's true justice is served.

Interestingly, when I checked the news early this morning there had been a little bit of a breakthrough. The United Nations Secretary General had a meeting with Hussein and it seems as if a real possibility for peace is happening. The beautiful thing I saw was that the Secretary General of the U.N. is a black man, Kofi Annan. Millions of people are seeing him and Hussein together. We're seeing a black man be a real force for peace and being right there at an important pinnacle of world events. He's one of the most significant and powerful players in this drama. This is a great thing for us to allow into our consciousness and a great thing for the world to see. That's a positive result coming out of this event. The world sees a black man being a major, powerful player and a force for peace and harmony in the world. I was glad to see that. Actually, we've seen a lot of wonderful healing of the race relations issue in the world in the past few years.

A couple of weeks ago Rev. Larry and I went to see a movie starring Robert Duval, named The Apostle. This movie had one of the most healed views of the races I have ever seen. I've never seen blacks and whites working together and getting along so well as that movie portrays. I thought, wow, we really are healing and changing if movies can show this kind of imagery. And we see that imagery in the news today when we see Kofi Annan dealing with Hussein and truly being a powerful, instrumental person in the interaction. I was really happy to see that.

I'm also pleased to know that the peace movement is still amir. I was proud. I'm an old "peace-nik." I was proud that the peace movement rallied and there were peace demonstrations. People were letting it be known that we should be thinking about peace and peaceful resolutions. Clinton has not had "carte blanch" to go and do whatever he wants. Public opinion has been very mixed and there are many people who do not feel we should be taking aggressive military action. I'm sure it's giving the Clinton administration pause to reflect. I was very glad that Ron Kovic (he's the man who wrote Born of the Forth of July, the one Tom Cruise played in the movie) was in San Francisco in the peace rally, talking about having the cause of peace in our minds. I'm glad to see that. I'm glad to see that peace will be acted out and chanted by people.

This issue in the world is a complex event and I think we all have to go within and find what our personal way is to contribute to the peace and not to just think it is cut and dry, black and white.

Also, in the reading this morning there is a second highlighted quotation. It's something very hard for us to accept but still very much at the heart of the matter. "Hold out your hand. This enemy has come to bless you." (S 5/11) We have to remember that whoever we perceive here as the villain has a blessing for us if we can find Holy Spirit's guidance and choose to look at things correctly. If we choose to see Hussein as the evil enemy we are mis-perceiving him. There is something here that we could learn form him. I see him as a person who is just trying to restore his wounded self-esteem as the Course puts it. (See T 323/348) He was beaten badly in the gulf War several years ago and he's trying to reestablish some dignity as he perceives it for himself and his country. Don't forget that the whole situation with Kuwait seven years ago was also muddy. It wasn't as black and white as the government wants to project it. The United States and the United Nations took the cause of Kuwait and championed that, but Iraq and Hussein did have a valid point of view. Kuwait was a part of Iraq not too long ago and it was the U.N. that carved this hunk of Iraq out and created a separate country named Kuwait. If the spin from the news media had been a little different, Hussein could have looked like a hero who was trying to reunite his people that had been separated. It all depends on how one looks at it. It's never as black and white, as cut and dry as we like to think.

Many like to make the military or the pentagon the villain in the piece. I believe that this is also a simplistic, naive, even juvenile, way of looking at it. I'm not saying to embrace war and conflict. I know the COURSE states, "There is no safety in a battleground. You can look down on it in safety from above and not be touched. But from within it you can find no safety." (T 461/496) But again, I think we make the mistake of trying to translate statements like that into direct action. I don't think this means we should disband the military tomorrow. That would just plunge people who are already fearful into higher levels of fear. Remember, frightened people can be vicious and we don't want vicious backlashes to erupt. While those close to the military may deny that they are in fear there is an important quotation from the COURSE that I remember, "For no one walk the world in armature but must have terror striking at his heart. Defense is frightening. It stems from fear, increasing fear as each defense is made." (W 245/252) The stronger our military defenses becomes the stronger our fear becomes. Actually, it's our fears that comes first.

We really want the world to move gently and gradually towards the peace that is our natural heritage. One of the key lesson for me is lesson #181 which states, "I trust my brothers who are one with me. - Trusting your brothers is essential to establishing and holding up your faith in your ability to transcend doubt and lack of sure conviction in yourself." (W 329/337) I want to trust my brothers. I want to trust my brothers in the military. I want to trust all the generals who are also my brothers who are advising the pentagon and I want to trust Clinton. I want to trust Hussein and I want to trust all the people who are involved in any way in this situation because I want to trust myself! I want to trust that I know how to stay peaceful and that I always know the right thing to do for myself in any situation that is causing me problems. If I take the stance that these people don't know the right thing to do, what I am saying is that I don't know the right thing to do! If I wonder why I'm confused at times I need to look at how often have I projected the idea that other people are making terrible mistakes. There is no separation between us and other people. The Course tells us, "What you perceive in others you are strengthening in yourself." (T 73/80) What we put out we are just strengthening in ourselves. I would not do that in this situation and I find this a great test. I am strengthening myself through this Iraq crisis by letting go of old ideas and praying that the Holy Spirit is at work.

So, pray for peace, by all means. But remember that the peace you are praying for is your peace. None of us can understand the situation from the bits and pieces of our own perception. The picture is much larger than that. What we need to pray for is that our own best interests be served. The only one who knows what those best interests are is the Holy Spirit working through us. Let us all pray that the Holy Spirit is working through everybody concerned. Let us all pray that the best interests are being served and that the world is steadily moving towards the time when we truly understand the brotherhood / sisterhood we have with all people.

That's it. Thank you.

(As this goes to press, President Clinton has given a provisional OK to the treaty brokered between Kofi Annan and Saddam Hussein. Tensions in the world start to ease.)  

© 1998 Rev. Tony Ponticello, San Francisco, CA – All rights reserved.

Rev. Tony Ponticello
c/o Community Miracles Center
2269 Market Street
San Francisco, CA 94114

This article appeared in the February 1998 (Vol. 11 No. 12) issue of Miracles MonthlyMiracles Monthly is published by Community Miracles Center in San Francisco, CA. CMC is supported solely by people just like you who: become CMC Supporting Members, Give Donations and Purchase Books and Products through us.