Peace Be With You

The peace process comes from a veteran's passion.

While much of the world employs violence to solve troubles, the Reverend Andy Carhartt chooses another tactic. "There's something very powerful about love and forgiveness," says Carhartt, a minister at St. John's Episcopal Church in Boulder. This Sunday he's spreading that message when St. John's hosts the debut speaker in Carhartt's Non-Violent Conflict Resolution Lectureship Series: the Rev. John Stone Jenkins, a Brandon, Mississippi, minister who has worked with inner-city children around the US. Jenkins will discuss the need for peaceful conflict resolution skills in America's children. It's a need that's growing. "Our whole culture in America is driven to violence from our very beginning," Carhartt says.

Carhartt's path to peacemaker status is an unlikely one. He graduated from West Point Military Academy in 1945 but became an Episcopalian minister instead of a soldier. In 1995, he and his wife, Virginia, gave the school a piece of their retirement money to start a nonviolent conflict resolution lecture series there. "We figured the vets needed an alternative to violence, which they're trained to exercise," Carhartt says of the idea.

West Point's generals didn't agree. The school hosted one speaker, then scrapped the program after Carhartt suggested bringing in someone to speak about spouse abuse in the military. A general told Carhartt that, "domestic violence doesn't exist in the military," then suggested the Carhartts' money would be better spent improving the school's buildings.

The Reverend Andy Carhartt.
The Reverend Andy Carhartt.

Carhartt took back his endowment and is now re-launching his idea at his Boulder parish. Nonviolent conflict resolution, Carhartt says, can solve tough troubles between nations as well as among different races and demographic and religious groups. Carhartt is ordained in both the Episcopalian and Presbyterian churches, and he notes, "Part of what we're trying to do is get some nonviolent conflict resolution between the two denominations."

In the meantime, he's trying to follow the teachings of his peaceable heroes, from Jesus, Ghandi and Martin Luther King Jr. to more contemporary pacifists. "I think Rodney King was a great theologian," Carhartt says with a well-meaning chuckle. "The Bible is trying to teach us just what Rodney King said: 'Let's learn how to get along.'"

 
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