Youth Peace Retreat
Responding non-violently to difficult situations and working together to remove the causes of stress and violence have been a long tradition for Quakers. Such a stance flows naturally from our belief that the Spirit of Christ passionately pursues each individual alive today. We have endeavored to call out, speak to and strengthen “that of God” which works within each individual, drawing them into relationship with the Creator.
Many of our youth have never really thought about non-violence as a response to threats and intimidation. In America, we have convinced ourselves, through repetition, that there remains only two options in such situations: roll over in submission and be trampled; or fight for our rights to stand.Our youth need to confront this fallacy, and be allowed to consider a third option: perhaps Christ has a higher way that will allow relationship to be built out of intimidation.
Peace Retreats are weekend opportunities for dialoging, arguing, and struggling with new information. Your goal, as you consider a Peace Retreat, should be for the youth leave the weekend with more questions than they arrived with. But hopefully their questions will be the right ones, and they will have more resources to respond intentionally to their concerns. There are no answers that are easy. And no answers should be forced or rewarded if they are embraced immediately. This is an issue that takes much internal struggle and thought to respond to with integrity.
I would suggest an entire weekend, Friday evening through Sunday, for the event. This will allow the group time to relax and “decompress” from the high intensity of the subject. I have found that the level of intellectual and conceptual skills necessary to deal with this topic are mostly found in high school juniors and seniors. If you involve lower classmen, be prepared for them to “check-out” from the discussion and distance themselves from the issues through avoidance behavior. In general, they can only handle so much at that age. This retreat is not recommended for jr. highers.
Have some fun games planned for Friday evening to help you all to get to know one another and relax together. On Saturday afternoon, after the Draft Board role play, it is helpful to take a few hours to play games or go somewhere and hang-out together.
Supplies and Location:
It is helpful to locate the retreat in a setting that has few distractions. Getting out of the city or away from home will help you avoid having “drop-ins,” visitors, or people who miss part of the program because they had a conflict but were still close enough to drop by.
Different elements of the retreat will require a VCR and television. The activities will require some handouts, pamphlets, and a copy of a couple of short stories. All these items are detailed in the “Supplies” section at the conclusion of this packet.
The booklet, Waging Peace, by John Lamoreau and Ralph Beebe, is used extensively by this retreat.
Reading through a copy of it will help prepare you for these discussions, and providing one for each participant is recommended.
You will need to decide if you want food to be prepared as a group working together (and therefore leave room in the schedule for it) or if you want to bring someone along to prepare and clean up meals. At least one presenter is required. It is helpful to have two, as this provides some variety and allows for more than one perspective on how an adult has dealt with these issues.Youth will have a lot of questions raised for them during this retreat. It is most helpful to have a low student-to-adult ratio, to allow for a lot of personal discussion time.
The location of your retreat will determine whether there is a fee for lodging. Per person, I usually figure $2.50/breakfast and $4.00 for each lunch and dinner.
I would encourage you to purchase copies of the booklet: Waging Peace by John Lamoreau and Ralph Beebe. They can be obtained through Barclay Press in Newberg and are an excellent, brief discussion of the major points in this retreat. It is helpful for participants to have something to take home with them for further reading and consideration.
This first night you will begin with some introductory questions to engage students in some brainstorming, race through 4,000 years of history, and conclude with some thoughts on what causes conflict. Points I and II should only take 30-40 minutes. Obviously, they will be a brief overview.
Waging Peace provides much of the background information referred to for this evening (Augustine’s theory and Old Testament violence, for instance.)
- “Does this answer any potential conflicts? What problems do you see with this?”
- Briefly explain Augustine’s “Two Kingdom’s Theory,” (Waging Peace page 24)
- “What conflicts might arise from being both?”
- “What do you feel it means to be a citizen?”
- “What do you feel it means to be a Christian”?
- “What questions do you bring with you or have you heard in regards to the issues of peace and non-violence?”
Brainstorm a list that can be put on a blackboard or piece of paper taped to the wall.
HISTORICAL BACKGROUND OF GOD’S PEOPLE
A: The Old Testament – “The Old Testament is filled with violence. It is dangerous to decide we don’t want to read or learn from part of the Bible, so we need to take a look at the Old Testament.”
- “Who were the enemies in the Old Testament?” (The people outside the walls of Judaism)
- “We’ll further address what has changed in just a minute. But first let’s take a look at the New Testament.”
- “Any ideas on why this may not be a valid argument for war today? -Leaders still use these arguments and declare ‘holy wars’ they say God called them to. What do you think has changed about the Old Testament people and people today?–(solicit any ideas, just to help them grapple with the question.)
- “What can we gather about war in the Old Testament from these facts?” (The Jews, as a theocracy, were to fight when God told them to, against people who were outside God’s leadership. If they fought for their own reasons or in their own power, they were defeated.)
- “What happened when the people of Israel made their own decisions about fighting?” (They were bitterly defeated. Direct them to Numbers 14:40-45 for an example.)
- “Who was in command, making all the decisions?” (God was. It was a definite theocracy, a dictatorship by a loving deity.)
B: The New Testament –
- “The New Testament supports the idea of responding non-violently to conflict. What stories or verses come to your mind that talk about non-violence?” (solicit their first impressions)
- “This seems to contradict the Old Testament. Let’s break into groups and take a closer look.” (Divide them into 7 equal groups or assign the verses to individuals. Have them read the verses in their groups, talk about what they say and then read them to the regathered group and share what they mean.) Matt. 5:44-45, Luke 6:32-33, Matt. 5:21-22, Luke 6:37, Matt 6:14-15, Rom. 2:1-3, Matt 26:52.
- “What about the stuff in the sermon on the Mount where Christ says: ‘You’ve heard it said an eye for an eye, (referring to the Old Testament) but I say turn the other cheek’ Did God change?”
- “If Christ is really supposed to be our example, his lifestyle should be studied and we should find clues to how God wants us to respond to violence in the way that he responded.”
- “Remember our definition of ‘enemies’ from the Old Testament? What happened to the ‘enemies’ in the New Testament?”
- (The walls of Judaism came down, every human being is a potential child of God. There is no longer and difference between Jew or Gentile. God’s kingdom is open to all.)
- Once verses are read: “Why is ‘judging’ mentioned so often?” (it is a matter of the heart. Violence of the heart. A cause of conflict and war.)
C: The Early Church
- “For the first 300 years of the Church, those who knew Christ first hand and who were closest in time to those who knew him first-hand, Christians were completely non-violent.” (Share the story of Marcellus from Waging Peace, page 20.)
- “Either Christ was a poor communicator and these people misunderstood what he was saying, or he was a very good communicator and they sacrificed their lives to follow him.”
- “What happened to the early Church’s non-violence?”
- “Who became the enemies?” (Whoever threatened the state, which was a “Christian nation.”)
- Share the story of Constantine, (Waging Peace, page 21). Christianity became the religion of the state. It was now the Christian’s destiny to protect the state. They could own property. They suddenly had a vested interest in the health and stability of a kingdom on earth.
- “This is where Augustine’s Two Kingdoms theory was born.” (refresh them on it and show how it fit the Christian’s new conflict about defending the country or respecting Christ’s role model.)
F: Just War –
- “Close on the heels of this conflict and theory, came the idea of the ‘just war.’ Certain violence was OK if God commanded it or if it met specific guidelines.” (From Waging Peace, page 25: “I will not enter this work until I could see Jesus himself running a bayonet through an enemy’s body.” That speaker decided he could see just that happening.)
- Read The War Prayer by Mark Twain
- “Everyone began claiming God’s name in their conflict. God appeared to be on every side, egging everyone on against the other.”
- “Today, Christian thought and rationalization regarding violence runs the full gamut.” Non-violence, just war, blind patriotism (my country, right or wrong), peace through strength (inflict fear on others regarding how bad we can hurt them), neo-just war (protect the weak).
- “Often we make the mistake of looking only at the violence, waiting until a situation is a full-blown crisis. This is like looking at the ‘symptom’ rather than at the ’cause.’ What are some of the things that cause violence and war? (Make a list on the board or paper.)
WHAT CAUSES CONFLICT?
- Watch the cartoon by Dr. Seuss, “The Butter Battle Book” or read the book itself.
- “How would you apply the BBB to international conflict?”
- “How would you apply it to interpersonal conflict, trouble in relationships?”
- “George Fox talked about and lived in such a way as to try and take away the ‘occasion’ for war.” (Read quote)
- “What are some of these causes or occasions for war?” (misunderstanding, ego, fear, stereotypes, escalations, peace through strength sets us up, unequal distribution of resources, pride of position, etc.
- “What does Christ say about these causes?”
- “‘Peace is more than the absence of war.’ What does this mean to you?”
- After breakfast, begin with a time of worship through song or silence. Have the group read John 18.
- “Would he have acted differently if he wasn’t ‘destined’ to die?” Perhaps return to the silence for the living presence of Christ to speak to the gathered group regarding his historic example.
- “Is this an isolated incident or one that flows from and reinforces his lifestyle?”
- “Why did Jesus respond this way?”
Take a short stretch break before moving on.
THE SCOPE OF NON-VIOLENCE
- “What does a non-violent lifestyle apply to? How far and near did Christ apply it?”
- “The person who truly pursues non-violence will strive for consistency of lifestyle in all the aspects. In other words, it doesn’t make sense for someone to rally against nuclear armament while supporting abortion rights. Nor does it make sense to verbally abuse pregnant women in your stance to respect their unborn child. Respect of ALL life needs to be the goal.”
- Make a list on the board, ranging from international conflict to how you respond when someone takes a cut in a line you’ve been standing in for a long time, to how you feel when your parent’s make plans for you without asking.
- Brainstorm together the different kinds of situations that non-violence might be involved.
- “To focus our thoughts and our discussion, we want to choose one specific area of non-violent lifestyle and follow it through. This will help you grapple with some of the issues that you are still sorting through. We’ll take a look at the armed forces.”
- “Before we begin, let’s review briefly the different stances people can take in regards to the military and war.”
- “We are going to use the form of a draft board, bringing you before the evaluation committee one at a time. But we will bend the rules a bit, responding to you according to your stance. Whether you choose to participate in a war fully, be a non-combatant, or choose to be a C.O. the Draft Board will play devil’s advocate and ask you tough questions to cause you to evaluate your stance and the consistency of your belief.”
- “A conscientious objection means that due to religious reasons, you cannot support nor participate in a war. The government recognizes this option in large part because of the work and witness of Quakers in colonial America
- “To help us confront the issue of non-violence and the military, we are going to role play a draft board. Such boards operate during a time of draft, and are established to find out how deeply held an individual’s conscientious objection to war may be.”
- It is good to follow this activity with a free or play period as well as a time to debrief and see how the youth felt about it and what questions they were left with. The order of these two activities, play and debrief, should be left up to the kids. It is a draining experience.
- The Draft Board walks a fine line as fictional antagonists who want to maintain a very real relationship after this activity is over. This is a role play. The Board members should assume the role of unsupportive interviewers, but when the role play is over, everyone needs to be comfortable with each other still. To avoid any negative impact on the relationships of the group, it is important to select “board members” who are mature and will not bring their personal preference into the questioning. They need to be people who support and enjoy youth, even when those youth don’t agree with them. This should be explained to the youth as well.
- As the Draft Board, you should have 2-3 adults who are prepared to play the devil’s advocate. A real draft board would never talk with someone who was compliant and willing to fight, but this board will. Draft Board members should have one objective: to bring the interviewee to a point of cognitive dissonance, where they recognize they do not have an answer. The point of this activity is to reveal to students the complexity of this decision and some of the issues they still need to address. It should help point out some of those “right questions” that need to be answered over the next few years.
- The military has become expert at marketing the skills and adventure of a tour of duty. The financial aspects cause many students to feel this may be their only option if they wish to go to college. Usually youth sign up with the armed forces as a necessary evil; they don’t agree with everything, but feel they don’t have any choice if they want to get a good education. Often they think they can decide how the military will affect them, what they will choose to believe and what they can just “pretend” to go along with. The armed forces are skilled at getting around this self-deception.-
- This Draft Board role play can be done one of two ways. There are strengths and weaknesses to each. You decide which to use. Students can face the board one by one with no one else in the room, or they can all sit in and watch each other face the board. The first way increases the stress a little and doesn’t allow students to borrow each other’s answers. They will have to be original and speak from their own hearts. However, it creates a lot of time to fill for the other students while they wait. The second way keeps everyone involved together and they can learn from each other’s answers. But they may also adopt someone’s witty or significant response just to get the out of a jam.
Review holy war, blind patriotism, just war, pacifism, peace through strength.
- “During a war-time situation when a draft is initiated, the selection of individuals begins the very next day. Therefore, it is important that you consider how you would respond to such a situation before it begins. It is also important to think through your response before you graduate, before you feel pressure about finding a job or getting into college.”
- With each interviewee, begin by asking:
- If at any point it gets too tense, on behalf of a Board Member or and interviewee, step out of the role play and remind everyone of what you are doing and why. Role plays can become emotional, and while we want to engage the emotions, we do not want to dig deeply into them. This is not an effort to convince or belittle one another.
- Follow their lead gently. Keep asking the question “Why?” in a variety of ways to help them peel back the layers of conventional or easy answers that we often hide behind.
- Look for inconsistencies in word or lifestyle. If they use the life of Christ as their support, look for the other teachings of Christ in their lifestyle, as support that they have really taken his example to heart. If they use the Old Testament to support just war, ask them how they reconcile the New Testament with that teaching.
- “What influences have been part of this decision?”
- Let them state their position, and then begin asking questions that will cause them to support their stance. Perhaps a good one to begin is: “What brought you to this decision?”
- “How will you respond to this requirement to fight in the war?”
- Draw months of the year out of a bowl. The order drawn will be the order students face the Draft Board. If students share a birthday month, go alphabetical by first name.
- “This is a learning exercise. We don’t expect you to have all the answers or to have everything figured out. Perhaps this will help you see what you still need to work through.”
- “When you turn 18, it is legally required for you to register for the draft at the Post Office. When a draft is initiated, selection begins the very next day by a lottery system. All birth dates are put into bin and pulled out one at a time until the required quota is filled. Then when more soldiers are needed, more birth dates are drawn. We will do the same here to find your order for facing the draft board. When you are called before our draft board, you will be asked your position regarding participation in the war, whether or not you will participate and in what role. Then will be asked probing questions that require you to substantiate and support your position, whatever it may be.”
- If you have a large group, or one that does better sharing in small groups, you might want to begin your debrief in small buzz groups with you asking the questions from up front. Otherwise, just gather everyone in a circle to respond to the Draft Board Role Play.
- Possible questions:
- “How did you feel about the Draft Board Role Play?
- What emotions did you feel?
- What was the hardest part for you?
- What was the hardest question for you?
- What questions are you left with, questions for which you need to continue pursuing answers?
- Can this group help you find those answers in any way?”
- Possible questions:
Take a long break. Get out of the building and relax together.
“Win as Much as You Can Game”
- This activity should take about 30-45 minutes and is pretty light-hearted (phew!). This is a game where the group is divided into 3-5 different smaller groups. You need at least two people in each group. DO NOT ever call these groups “teams.” They will automatically assume that they are teams, competing AGAINST one another (it is our nature.) But you must be careful to not call them teams or use the word “competition.”
- Each of the groups are to be given a sheet of paper with an “X” on it, one with an “Y” on it, and a file folder to hold both of them.
- A paper on the wall needs to be marked like the attached “WAMAYC” game board. The scoring will depend upon the number of groups you divide into. The sample provided is set-up for four groups.
- Basically, each group is to decide whether they want to select an “X” or an “Y”. Their selection is placed on top of the other page in the “secrecy envelope” (file folder) and given to you. When they are all received, they are revealed, compared to the other group’s selections, and scored accordingly. Write each group’s score down at the conclusion of each round.
- Place the cumulative score (each round’s total plus the previous rounds) over the actual total possible in the game up to that point. (Each round can potentially score 120 total points if all worked together and chose “Y”s). For example, at the conclusion of Round 3, the bottom scores might be: 170/360. DO NOT explain to them what you are doing with these bottom scores.
- Their assumption is that their group is “against” all the other groups in trying to win as much as they can. The reality, that you reveal at the conclusion of Round 10, is that each group’s score is combined for a total score for everyone and compared with what was possible if they had worked together as one team rather than as many. DO NOT add up individual group scores a the conclusion of Round 10 or at any time during the game.
- Again, it is important that you don’t “set them up” by calling the individual groups “teams,” or by talking about competition. They will naturally make the assumption, so don’t try to do it for them.
- There are no rules about them talking with their partners in their group, or with people in other groups. In fact, they can all choose to “disarm” and crumple up their “X”s if they wish. Or one group can make a move of good faith and disarm whether the others do or not. It’s a game of trust and deception… a lot like life!
- This obviously lends itself easily to debriefing questions about how we approach international conflicts regarding resources, greed, pride, all the “occasions of war.” It can also apply to relationships within families, churches, or youth groups! Be sure and talk about some of these parallels.
- For a relaxing evening event, watch “Amazing Grace and Chuck,” a feature video available at most rental stores. It focuses on nuclear weapons and asks the question: “What if we stood by our convictions even if they didn’t seem practical?” Perhaps it is a modern telling of Shadrach, Meschach & Abednego!)
- After breakfast, take some time for worship through song and silence. If you would like to do a scripture study in conclusion or introduction of worship, focus on the idea of “kingdom.”-
- “What is a kingdom?”
- A place where someone rules.
“Let’s read the following scriptures and share our thoughts on what they say about kingdoms and the world.”
- 1 John 5:19
- I Corinthians 2:6
- James 4:4
- 1 John 2:15-17
- John 18:36
Discussion for closure
- “What principles have we discussed in looking at the non-violent lifestyle?” (hopefully they will get around to suggesting working on the “causes” of war, gaining a new perspective of “sides” and “team,” planning ahead on their viewpoint, looking globally as well as interpersonally, consistency of lifestyle in applying non-violence to every area of their relationships.)
- “How do these concepts apply to interpersonal relationship, to your own family?”
- “What one thing do you personally need to work on with your family?”
- “Peacemaking is an active process. What does that statement mean To you?”
- Pacifism does not mean passive.
- End with the reminder that we need to strive for consistency and integrity. Our beliefs must be reflected consistently in our lives. We don’t have to have all the answers now, but must continue to struggle for truth and follow each step of what we understand. Encourage them to remain in relationship with older adults that they trust and respect as they continue to deal with their questions. Remind them this retreat was not designed to answer all their questions, but rather to help them discover the right questions to be asking.
It might be helpful to give each a copy of Waging Peace and a “Peacemaker Registration Form.” These items will help them continue to work through the important issues.
- Blackboard/whiteboard or butcher paper to tape to the walls
- Waging Peace booklets, at least one for the instructor, but it would be best to give a copy to each participant. They can be obtained through Barclay Press in Newberg.
- “Amazing Grace and Chuck” video – feature rental from most stores.
- “WAMAYC” Game Sheets (set for each group) with “secrecy envelope” file folder for each group.
- “Win As Much As You Can” Game board
- Copy of George Fox’s quote about “taking away the occasions of war.”
- A copy of the Dr. Seuss book or cartoon: The Butter Battle Book
- A copy of the short story: The War Prayer, by Mark Twain
- Masking Tape
- Chalk, whiteboard pens, or markers