Redeeming the Power, Redeeming Ourselves

Peace building experiments at West Point and the grocery store

By Lisa Schirch for The Mennonite

Lisa Schirch
Lisa Schirch is a professor of peacebuilding and program director of the 3D Security Initiative ( at the Center for Justice and Peacebuilding at EMU. She is a member of Shalom Mennonite Church in Harrisonburg, Va.

It’s a long way from my grocery store to West Point Military Academy. But I’ve come to see my time at both stops as experiments in peacebuilding, as places where I attempt to follow the way of Jesus.

When I taught a course on peacebuilding at West Point Military Academy in 2005, I found their cadets are a lot like my undergraduate students at Eastern Mennonite University in Harrisonburg, Va. They are hardworking, responsible, smart, optimistic, interested in foreign travel, motivated to serve others and ready to make sacrifices.

And when I stood at the airport in long wet goodbyes with my family as I departed to travel to Iraq to work with Mennonite Central Committee (MCC) in 2005, I imagined many military personnel similarly embracing their families as they departed for Iraq that hot August day. I’ve learned that entering into conversations and relationships with military personnel isn’t the same as being co-opted or agreeing with them.

State Department staff George Kennan once noted that the United States is 6 percent of the world’s population and owns half the world’s wealth. He claimed that maintaining this disparity of consumption