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God's Politics


Celeste Zappala: A Mother’s Cry for Peace

posted by gp_intern

Celeste Zappala was one of several speakers at the March 16 Christian Peace Witness for Iraq service at the National Cathedral. This is the prepared text of her message that evening.

+ Watch video of the entire service

Good evening, brothers and sisters in Christ. I am Celeste Zappala, of the First United Methodist Church of Germantown in Philadelphia, of Military Families Speak Out, and sadly, of Gold Star Families Speak Out, because I am the mother of a fallen soldier.

My son, Sgt. Sherwood Baker, was killed in Baghdad on April 26, 2004. I am here tonight as a witness to the true cost of this war, and I am joined this night by others who have lost their sons to the betrayal and madness that is the war in Iraq.

I honor these young ones:
Alex Carbonaro, son of Gilda and Fulvio
Thomas Sweet, son of Liz and Tom
Alexander Arrandando, son of Carlos and Melida

Please hold these families in prayer.

I have been in this cathedral one other time, and it was for the funeral of Alex Carbonaro in May last year. Hundreds filled the seats you sit in and wept with his wife and his parents. On a beautiful spring day Alex was laid in to the sacred ground of Arlington – and just beyond his grave, the earth was being prepared to receive the bodies of the newly dead and those to come.
Three thousand, two hundred and three American families. We are all part of the ever-growing, sad fellowship of families who have met their worst fear when they opened their front door.

“Are you Sherwood Baker’s mother?” said the man with medals on his chest on the rainy night that death came to my door.

“Yes, I am the mother”- of my sweet and noble son who always made me laugh, who was there if you needed help, and who more people than I could ever have imagined called their best friend.

“Yes, my son” – Sherwood, a musician, a disc jockey, a case worker for mentally challenged adults, a faithful husband, the tenderest father you could ever know, and a soldier in the Pennsylvania National guard.

“Are you Sherwood Baker’s mother?” “Yes,” I said, and fell to the ground, while somewhere outside of myself I heard someone screaming and screaming.

Tonight we are here in the National Cathedral, the altar of the nation. We lay before God the sorrow that lives in us all because of this war. Since Sherwood died protecting the Iraq survey group as they looked for the weapons of mass destruction, 2,483 more American lives have been lost, and how many limbs and how many eyes and how much blood? And what happens to the souls of soldiers who have picked up their friends in pieces, or fearfully fired in to a moving car – to discover a shattered Iraqi family a moment later?

In Iraq, shamefully, no one could say how many children and old people have died. Those counts are only kept in the hearts of those who have loved them – please hold these people in your heart. An Iraqi mother searches a morgue for the familiar curve of the hand of her child beneath a pale sheet; an American father watches his son beheaded on video tape; an Iraqi child wakes up in a shabby hospital in excruciating pain and without his arm; an American girl writes letters to her dead soldier father; a young vet wraps a garden hose around his neck and leaps away from the nightmares that beset him.

And an ocean of tears spreads across both countries, along with the numbers: 1,950 us kids lost a parent, 25,000 wounded and struggling through the VA system, scores and scores of suicides – 500,000 and more dead Iraqis, 2 million refugees …

A wail rises from the throat of all who love these people and shakes our hearts as it reaches for the crucified open arms of Jesus. We are here tonight as the church: Each one of us are witnesses to this war and to our own complicity in it – when were we silent and should have spoken, whose eyes would we not meet to face the truth? Now we are prostrate at this altar, begging, “Lord, help us. War is our failure to love you, and peace is your command. Peace is not the easy way out, its creation is the most confounding – the hardest – thing we can do. Help us.”

We lay our souls – broken, open – before you and question: How do we follow your command to love each other? Surely it can not be by mindlessly sending the children of others off to kill people we do not know.

And though I know nothing, I say: No amount of logic or protest will bring my son back to me, or any of the lost ones home, yet I ask the Lord to help us. We lay this grief before the Lord – our souls broken, open – ready to rise to witness; ready to rise to love God’s world to peace.

Bless you and thank you.



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Will

posted March 20, 2007 at 10:38 pm


What an incredible speech. I pray that our leaders can hear the wisdom in it and begin healing in Iraq.



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Joseph Tracy

posted March 21, 2007 at 5:21 am


Amen Dear Sister, thank you for speaking from the heart. There is a better way.May we find it in the light of God’s love.



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butch

posted March 21, 2007 at 5:26 am


I have two questions, one about the family and friends the other about those who have been and express and interest to go back. I hear interviews with parents of recently killed where they express, often, how fine their children were, etc. And often some thought that they hope their child didn’t die in vain. I want to know how the family and loved ones feel on day one and day 365 and day 4 years later. Then the soldiers who say they would or want to go back. I want to hear from psychologist on the nature of the camaraderie of being in conflict with others. When they say they want to or would go back is it to be with their comrades or because of their support for the conflict. Do what you will but I don’t want answers from non-professionals in counseling.



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Donny

posted March 21, 2007 at 5:31 am


If we had mothers like this during World War Two, we would all speaking German now. Those of us that survived the defeat that is. It is so typical of the Left to use the most vulnerable among us to do their dirty work of destroying the United States any way they can. When I joined the Army I knew what could happen. My mother did too. How long after Leftists take control of the United States, would all of the crosses in Arlington be pulled up out of the ground? A quick look at the ACLU and other Liberal/Progressive political forces, show that this would happen without doubt. Something a Christian should think about when yoking themselves to a cause. Not everyone that says Lord, Lord, is a Christian. Read Jude.



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butch

posted March 21, 2007 at 5:43 am


Donny, please understand that I say this in the kindest way possible. You are a really sick pup.



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Mike Hayes

posted March 21, 2007 at 5:51 am


Celeste Zapalla, Bless you and thank you.



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Sara Singh

posted March 21, 2007 at 12:09 pm


Amen butch and Mike. Thank you so much Celeste, for your beautiful and heartfelt words. I do not believe Christ would send our children to kill others. I’m so sorry for the chaos and many, many losses. God help us create Peace.



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Donny

posted March 21, 2007 at 1:18 pm


Sara, What would you say to Mohammad? He has no problem at all sending out Islamic sons to kill and be killed? With literally no end in sight. Any peace protesters saying anything to Islamic countries? Or are the children of Muslims not worth any political manipulations? Intense grief over losing a child should not be used by Democrats to further their cause of socialism and Marxism here in the United States. That is a fair thing for me to say. — American children are dying in far larger numbers from drugs and inner-city violence. Do we blame all that on George Bush as well? Most major cities vote Democrat. Last time I looked, which was today, not one single march of protest is being held to protest about Islamic leaders leading their countries in a war that has never stopped. How many non-soldiers were killed in New York on 9-11? If we are to use grieving mothers for political gain, how about the parents of drug addicts and victims of violence, protest what is happening HERE IN OUR STREETS every single day???? If Democrats are going to change the world by Marxist promoting peace protests, try stopping the liberal laws that keep the drugs and gangs ever-flowing on the streets of America.How many people in DC died from drug and gang violence the days that the Democrats planned their political actions in Washington? If the Democrats are going to save the world through their socialists marching against government apathy, how about addressing their own politicians in their own cities, counties and States? How many inner-cities vote exclusively Democrat?If Democrats are to use Christian lingo to advance their political aims, strat with getting the log out of your own eyes. There are lots of grieving parents to hear from.



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Don

posted March 21, 2007 at 3:08 pm


“Intense grief over losing a child should not be used by Democrats to further their cause of socialism and Marxism here in the United States. That is a fair thing for me to say.” Donny, this is NOT a fair thing for you to say. It is, in fact, a non sequitur, unless you can demonstrate with facts and examples that the Democrats are promoting socialism and Marxism. Quite simply, they are not. But if you want to try and prove it, go ahead. But in order to do that, you need to give us statements, documents, or other proofs that indicate that this is the aim of the Democratic party. If you can’t give us this proof, you shouldn’t be making these kinds of accusations. Later,



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Carl Copas

posted March 21, 2007 at 6:36 pm


Donny, Warum hassen Sie soviel?



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Pacific231

posted March 21, 2007 at 6:54 pm


Donny, STFU.



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Don

posted March 21, 2007 at 6:58 pm


Carl: Ich wundere ob Donny irgendeine Deutsch sprechen kann. Spaeter,



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Pacific231

posted March 21, 2007 at 6:58 pm


I rank your faithless denegration of Celeste Zappala right down in the same stinking sewer trench as Coulter denigrating the widows of 9/11 victims because they don’t agree with her twisted illogic either. Like Coulter, you are no longer worthy of any civil response and you never were in the first place.



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Don

posted March 21, 2007 at 7:06 pm


I agree with you, Pacific213. I guess I’m still trying to be nice. I’m not sure why any more… Peace,



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Deryll

posted March 21, 2007 at 7:08 pm


[Read Jude. Donny | 03.20.07] Donny, have you read Jude or only heard someone else’s version. I suggest you get a couple of good translations (the Greek if you can understand it) and read what it actually says. Perhaps you will then see that it is a sermon dispelling the false belief in what we call today “the prosperity gospel”. Jude argues against those who see the “church” as a means to amuse and enrich themselves. He condemns the sin of Sodom; which was the taking advantage of and abusing the weak and vulnerable; Especially the sins of rape and greed. Jude cautions against those who wish to enrich themselves rather than follow the Gospel as given by Jesus. Jesus said that even He came to serve rather than be served. We too are called to serve our brothers and BE neighbors. We are not to cause divisions by setting ourselves above others or seeking to know who is worthy to be our neighbor. We are only to compare ourselves to and follow Christ. For all have sinned.



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Carl Copas

posted March 21, 2007 at 7:37 pm


Don, Ich bin sicher, Donny er nicht Deutsches sprechen kann. Mein schwacher Versuch, ironisch zu sein. Mon Allemand est tr s faible.



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Don

posted March 21, 2007 at 8:03 pm


Und mein Franzoesisch ist schwaecher!



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Doug7504

posted March 22, 2007 at 12:13 am


I think it’s noteworthy that Mrs. Zappala didn’t denigrate any one political party during her speech…instead, she shared her pain with all of us, and asked us to look inside ourselves for the answers. How refreshing, in light of some of the sad comments above. It saddens me that in any of these blogs, someone always has to begin the demonization process in order to justify their viewpoint. Mrs. Zappala’s pain at the death of her son is no greater or less than any other parent who has lost a son or daughter in any war. The tragedy is that, after all the deaths in all the wars, after all the “justifications” and “credible evidence” and “evil intentions” ,etc, etc the human race persists in butchering each other in the name of nationalism and politics. And we keep willingly following those in power who see violence as the best means of enforcing national policy. Catholic, Protestant, Muslim, Jew, Hindu, Buddhist…we are ALL responsible. Forgive us, Jesus. Peace.



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Joy

posted March 22, 2007 at 1:30 am


Celeste Your prayer calls to my mind the words of the prophet Jeremiah as quoted by St, Matthew “A voice was heard in Ramah,wailing and loud lamentation, Rachel weeping for her children; she refused to be consoled, because they were no more.” (Matthew 2:18/Jeremiah 31:15).How many mothers like you and Rachel sit all over our country and all over Iraq weeping for their children because they are no more? To those of you who continue to compare this to World War II you are way off base. Ever since he was driven out of Kuwait in 1991 Saddam Hussein never invaded or attempted to invade any other countries as Hitler did repeatedly.Iraq did not attack us as Japan did on December 7, 1941. What ever weapons of mass distruction Iraq had were a gift from us to wage war on our then common foe, Iran. Did we ever give or sell weapons to Germany or Japan prior to WWII? Although there is considerable debate over how just a war WWII was, civilian populations were not targeted to the extent that they are in Iraq.Certainly not until later in the war.Your comparisons are false.



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the contrarian

posted March 22, 2007 at 5:49 am


“If we had mothers like this during World War II, we would all be speaking German. Those of us who survived the defeat, that is.” I don’t have a problem with the German language, really. I do have a problem though, with the un-ending stream of twits that bring up the comparison with Hitler, still. Hitler, at the time, built the most efficient and awesome war machine that the world had ever known: it took the whole world to defeat him. Saddam’s army instead, was not even a shadow of its former self, having gone through five years or so of war with Iran AND the crushing defeat of the Gulf War AND the crippling sanctions that followed AND the no fly zone, etc, etc. He was hardly a regional threat, let alone a threat to the U.S.A. Sorry, Donny, save your lame ass comparisons for Sunday school. “It is so typical of the Left to use the most vulnerable among us to do their dirty work to destroy the United States any way they can.” In other words, her pain renders her a mindless tool of the Left? If I lost a son, a brother, a sister, a father, I’d be more than speaking words of wisdom at such a gathering…I’d be asking for jail time for the sons of bitches that got us into this phony war. Read Pat Tillma’s brother letter to the president. “When I joined the Army I knew that could happen” Good! Do we owe you a medal? As somebody else said, this too, is a non sequitur. “My mother did too” Good for her! May be then she won’t attend a gathering of commies bent on destroying the USA if whatever you have for brains gets blown off serving Halliburton. “How long before the Leftists take control of the United States before all of the crosses at Arlington be pulled up out of the ground…” Another canard. You can’t help it can you? The Bush crime family and the evangelical establishment that are in bed with them, have already messed, soiled and pissed on the cross and the crosses so much that it seems a bit belated to worry about the commies taking them out now. “Something a Christian should think about when yoking themselves to a cause” Right ritght! Apropos of that, James H. Kunstler recently called the Evangelicals “a death cult”. I think he is into something. “Not everyone that says ‘Lord Lord’ is a Christian” It’s just about the only thing we agree on… xhidarta



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Hali

posted March 22, 2007 at 6:01 am


Donny, Exodus 20:16.



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Don

posted March 22, 2007 at 2:26 pm


contrarain wrote: “Read Pat Tillma’s brother letter to the president.” I think I missed this. Where can I find it? Thanks!



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Hali

posted March 23, 2007 at 2:39 am


Hi Don, I don’t know if this is what contrarian was referring to, but it’s a pretty powerful one: http://tinyurl.com/tek8p full URL: http://www.veteransforamerica.org/page/weblog/subpage/display_blog/bid/667C14D6-123F-747A-1B6A7A92CD67580A



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the contrarian

posted March 23, 2007 at 2:55 am


Kevin Tillman’s essay, can be found in Truthdig.com under the title “After Pat’s Birthday”. Oct/06/06 It wasn’t a letter to the president, though. Memory failed me after seven months. But in a way it is..because it contains so many poisoned darts to the failed chicken-hawks. My admiration and respect for Kevin and the memory of Pat.



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kevin s.

posted March 23, 2007 at 9:43 pm


I obviously sympathize with this mothers agony. By the same token, I know many mothers in the same agony who support the war for the very reason that their son supported and was willing to die for it.As such, while Donny has exhibited his usual lack of tact (among other things), it is fair to argue the general points of a blog which merely quotes a woman who has a point of view (albeit an intensely personal one) on this issue.



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