Though they might not seem similar, working a 12 step program to recover from addiction and pursuing a program of peace might actually be quite similar. I recently read an article about comedian Russell Brand’s new book “Recovery: Freedom From Our Addictions” where he offers his version of the traditional 12 step program and how it has worked in his life. He says, “We don’t choose between having a program and not having a program. We choose between having a conscious program and an unconscious program. When you’re not working a program consciously you’re working an unconscious program – the program of your childhood, the program of your culture, the program of your media.”
When I think about what our Pax Christi group is doing, I realize that we’re attempting to consciously work our own program, a Christian program of active nonviolence. This program stands in contrast to our culture, which offers us a subtle but constant program of violence. Lavishing money on the military and maintaining a nuclear arsenal that could end life as we know it – these are the paths we are offered to peace and stability. Gun ownership is not to be questioned even as one mass shooting follows another in the news cycle, creating a sad sequence death and heartache. Our states routinely execute their citizens in the name of justice. But where is the justice in executing those with mental illnesses, those who were underage when they committed their crimes and those with poor legal representation who may even be innocent?
Our program of peace is not prescribed in 12 straightforward steps, but rather in the life and teachings of Jesus. So, we meet and we talk, trying to figure out how we work this program of peace. We pray and sometimes we vigil. On occasion, we get together and we write postcards and letters to the governor to spare the life of a man slated for execution. On small white cards we plead for mercy; we plead for real justice instead of death. These may be small gestures, but necessary steps of a program to guide our feet into the way of peace.