Tuesday, August 26, 2008

PeaceMakers

Blessed are the peacemakers...

Not blessed are the peace keepers...

Making peace has always been harder than keeping the peace.

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If heaven were to do again,
And on the pasture bars,
I leaned to line the figures in
Between the dotted starts,

I should be tempted to forget,
I fear, the Crown of Rule,
The Scales of Trade, the Cross of Faith,
As hardly worth renewal.

For these have governed in our lives,
And see how men have warred.
The Cross, the Crown, the Scales may all
As well have been the Sword.
Robert Frost

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8 comments:

shawnmcq said...

Peace, brother.

Okay, I am going to get a little controversial and thought provoking. I will probably anger a few people. I don't mean to. It is none of my business to tell anyone who to vote for. That is your decision and I respect your choice!

Here is mine and what I base it on:

Hebrews 12:14 (King James Version)

"Follow peace with all men, and holiness, without which no man shall see the Lord."

Did you catch that? "Without following peace with men and holiness, no man shall see the Lord."
I think if I were President Bush I wouldn't be able to sleep at night. McCain (and other world leaders of course!) should pay darn pretty close attention to Hebrews 12:14! Yes, Blessed be the peacemakers!
As a believer in Jesus Christ, I will be casting my vote this november to those who seek peace with others and not war. It was Christ himself that said "love your enemies as yourself". Hate is just another word for war, and war is just another word for greed. Hate does not exist in the heart of Christ. He has only love. There is only love in Heaven. It is my personal opinion, that any follower of Christ should always seek peace and not war.

shawnmcq said...

Here is a great article that couldn't do a better job at expressing exactly how I feel regarding this topic! I wish I would have wrote this myself! (especially the last paragraph).

"Understanding Pro-war Christians' Indifference to Civilian Deaths"
by Dr. Teresa Whitehurst
It's been going on for years now. Almost daily we read that another child, another parent, another sister or brother, another grandpa or aunt, is killed in Afghanistan or Iraq by U.S. weaponry in Mr. Bush's "war on terror." Sometimes it's a wedding party, or a bunch of kids, or a family of six. Sometimes it's a journalist, or a whole group of journalists, who may even be killed on camera in real time for all the world to see and hear.

But no matter how bad it gets, nothing seems to change Americans' support for war, which for some reason is stiffest among Christian supporters of the Bush administration. "Stuff happens in a war zone." "Don't worry because God is in control." With these and other slogans, I've been reassured by countless pro-war Christians that, as long as civilians aren't intentionally targeted, taking their lives is okay, maybe even predestined, God's will.

Recently a Christian from Australia wrote to ask, "Why are American Christians so bloodthirsty? Why do they support the war in Iraq, no matter how many innocent people are made to suffer? We just don't understand why they're willing to kill other people so that they can feel more safe – it's so selfish!"

She's right, and she's wrong. She's right about the fact that many Christians in America will blindly support whichever war their president promotes, with the assumption that his much-advertised praying guarantees us that God approves of all those bombs and missiles, and even the inevitable collateral damage.

This "don't worry, be happy" stance of pro-war Christians can make those of us who suffer at the news of civilian deaths almost green with envy: How do they go blithely to church, pray and give an offering, then go eat some nice mashed potatoes and gravy at Cracker Barrel with nary a worry about the families being bombed or shot or crushed by their own military at that very moment?

But she's wrong in her assumption that all Christians in the U.S. find civilian deaths an acceptable price to (let someone else) pay for Mr. Bush's ultimate goals. Many, including those in the evangelical community, were raised to obey Jesus' teachings above any other, and suffer mightily whenever they learn that more innocent people have lost their lives to this terrorizing "war on terror."

She's also wrong about the seemingly bloodthirsty attitude of pro-war Christians; most of them are nice people on a personal basis. They love their kids and their fellow Americans, and would never have supported the bombing of, say, Oklahoma City's malls and suburbs in an effort to target a Timothy McVeigh. And they certainly don't go around saying they hope a lot more civilians are killed by U.S. bombs and guns. They've been trained to deny it's happening or downplay its importance, thinking instead about Iraq's future democracy, the next life, or the "big picture."

Failure to Care: How it Happens

The reasons for blindness or indifference toward civilian casualties are several. Many if not most pro-war Christians, particularly those in the southern and midwestern states:

rarely see news accounts of civilian casualties because our major TV news programs and newspapers either omit those stories altogether or mention them in passing (without photos, the crucial element in terms of public opinion) and, wanting to believe that Bush's war is working, do not seek out evidence of the maiming and killing of our troops orof Iraqi civilians,
have been immunized against thinking for themselves or doubting the Bush administration with certain Bible verses (particularly those verses in Romans telling us to obey and submit to governmental authority figures) – a passive stance that's strikingly different from the questioning that Jesus both urged and modeled toward greedy, power-seeking, and hypocritical authority figures (e.g., "false prophets" and "wolves in sheep's clothing"),
are told not to worry, when they do hear of civilian casualties, that life in the flesh is less important than life eternal (one European writer told me that a friend confided, "Yes it's sad, but if some Iraqi civilians are killed by U.S. bombs and it saves even one soul, it will have been worth it" – a sentiment that, sadly, is not unusual),
feel they dare not oppose this or any war because talking about peace, objecting to war's human cost, or even referring to the United Nations has become associated in their minds with the Antichrist and eternal damnation, thanks to fictional works based on Thessalonians such as the Left Behind books and video (this video makes clear the fearful reasoning behind the knee-jerk reactions of many pro-war Christians against peace itself, peacemakers of any kind [poignant indeed in light of Jesus' teaching, "Blessed are the peacemakers"], the Middle East "road map," international dialogue and cooperation, and any form of human rights accountability), and
have been convinced by right-wing preachers, authors and radio hosts (people like Rush Limbaugh are the most influential, because their voices are heard for hours daily rather than written in a book or heard once a week in church) to shift their allegiance away from Jesus' teachings about merciful behavior toward and compassion for family and stranger alike ("the least of these") to the more pro-violence, pro-war values espoused by various non-Gospel biblical writers.
Each of these is a powerful influence, but when combined, they dramatically alter Christian values in fundamental ways. Whereas evangelical churches used to teach compassion (in liberal doses, not conservative soundbites) and warn against responding to threats or attacks with violence, today's conservative churches urge parishioners to support capital punishment, zero-tolerance policies of all kinds, and corporal punishment to "shape the will" of babies, toddlers, and children. Someone raised in this kind of environment grows up to become an adult who's afraid to step out of line, and who naturally resents or even hates those who feel free to do so.

White House Chief of Staff Andrew Card summed it up best: President Bush sees Americans as so many children who need a father to guide and protect them. Indeed, conservative Christians are raised for a dictatorship where the "leaders" make the calls and are not to be questioned, rather than a democracy, where dissent is a cherished right. As linguistics professor George Lakoff has concluded from his study of the conservative-liberal divide that's polarizing American society, conservatives (the popular but by no means accurate label) are accustomed to, hence gravitate toward, a strict father – and nothing can be more strict than "our father" Bush demanding that we accept without question all the "stuff" that happens in his war.

Moral Relativism: In War, Anything Goes

But most importantly, conservative Christianity in the U.S. has succumbed to that which it has, in decades past, most rigorously warned against: moral relativism. By restricting any discussion of morality to sexual behavior, right-wing politicians have obliterated the once-central Christian teaching that the way we treat others is of paramount importance to God. Cleverly "working the room," pro-war politicians have infiltrated churches to such a degree that killings and torture are no longer within the province of morality. When morality is only about sex, no aspect of war – even the killing of entire families – can arouse criticism, much less condemnation.

In short, everything that happens in the execution of war, even that which is flagrantly in violation of the moral values that Jesus taught regarding violence and revenge, prayer for enemies and peacemaking, becomes acceptable when Jesus' teachings are compartmentalized as relevant only in our personal lives. When Jesus is sidelined, those parts of the Bible that support authority, no matter what it does to innocent people, will take precedence. This is what has happened (often with the prodding, political influence and financial support of right-wing political organizations) in many of our churches today. Unless Christians begin to speak up publicly for the teachings of Christ – the cornerstone of our faith – we will continue to slide into the kind of moral relativism that causes others to wonder why we are so bloodthirsty.

monkwater said...

It seems to me that peace should extend to presidents who can't sleep at night and even to our brothers (christian cuss word deleted) who don't pay attention to Hebrews 12:14.
Peace to all.

Jonathan Foster said...

When I posted this originally I wasn’t thinking of war, really… I was thinking more of individual inter-personal conflict. But obviously the theme of war fits here…

Few things…
1) I’m also a little embarrassed at how Christian America seems to ignore the travesty of war. Of course, our country, like most was born out of violence so I guess I shouldn’t be surprised. It’s a part of our DNA. Nevertheless, it’s horrible. It’s hypocritical to be pro-life in one arena and to be so pro-death in another.
2) I’m really turned off by the way Christianity has been branded (see my post in this blog entitled “Branding Christianity”). I think some of our discussion here connects with that post.
3) Having said that… on the other hand, I’m also bothered by the way we’ve labeled this current conflict we’re in as “Bush’s war”. A) I don’t think that’s respectful and B)Right and left overwhelmingly supported him initially. Granted there might have been some bad intel info but a point is, we all got into this together and we’ve learned (again) that it’s easier to start something than it is to finish and finish it well. Maybe we need to give the President some grace on that level. Maybe Americans are incredibly na├»ve to think that a war could have been started and finished in a couple of years. The Mid-East has been fighting for centuries!
4) Romans 13 has to be brought into any discussion on war. It can’t be forgotten that God instituted governments and that their priority is to protect the people. So, what does that mean? Are they supposed to turn the other cheek? When Jesus talked about that was he talking about govt’s or individuals? What if you saw a child being abused by bullies… what would you do? Would you help and if so how much force would you be willing to exert? Would a govt be doing it’s God-ordained job by ignoring threats or pacifying bullies? I don’t know. I’m just asking.
5) I don’t have the answers. I must apply some serious 1Tim 2:2 here and pray for our leaders.

Again… It’s easier to keep peace than make peace.

shawnmcq said...

Very well thought comment J. Yes, this is a very though provoking topic indeed. Whoever becomes our next president, they will have my full respect and I will lift them up in prayer to help lead our country. For that matter, we should pray for all of the world's leaders and ask that the peace and love of Christ be in their hearts and mind too.
God Bless!

Adrian said...

The bible says there is a time for everything including a "time for war". Jesus turned the other check. Theres many other examples like this where discernment in a particular situation is the only real answer.

I'm opinionated about most things but still really dont know what is Gods will on this whole middle east war thing. Every time I investigate more I seem to get more confused. I can easily argue both sides in a debate.

Read the Old Testament and the details of the wars that the Jews had and maybe get a perspective that this war is what we need. There were situations where God is ordering people to fight for seemingly less reasons than our current war.

Read other parts of the Bible and feel that peace is upmost importance.

For me, there are stong Christian arguments on both sides.

I pray for discernment on this topic to help make the right voting decision in November

Jonathan Foster said...

good stuff adrian.

i wish i could write something poignant here but i cant.

discernment is paramount.

shawnmcq said...

Chirst is love, the Ultimate love. Love cannot produce war. It is impossible. Only Satan, the ultimate hater and lier can produce war. Therefore War is not of Christ. It would be impossible. Not only is it a spiritual law, but it is a scientific law. It is a would be like saying ice can produce fire. Others may believe different, but that would not be the Jesus I believe in. How much clearer can, "Thou Shall Not Kill" be?
How much clearer can Leviticus 19:18-
" 'Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD" be. How much clearer can
Zechariah 8:17-
"do not plot evil against your neighbor, and do not love to swear falsely. I hate all this," declares the LORD" be. How much clearer can Matthew 5:43
[ Love for Enemies ] "You have heard that it was said, 'Love your neighbor and hate your enemy." How much clearer can Mark 12:31-
"The second is this: 'Love your neighbor as yourself.' There is no commandment greater than these." Yes, there is a "time for war', but the Bible does not say that God caused these things. The apostle Paul encouraged us to pray "for kings and all who are in authority, in order that we may lead a quiet life in all godliness and dignity" (1 Tim. 2:2). His words speak directly to the issues of warfare, spirituality, and evangelism. Jesus is the servant king, who builds his kingdom by serving others and commands his disciples to do likewise. War, forced capitulation through physical domination, is the antithesis of Jesus' ministry. War is immoral. The idea that we can kill, we can choose who will live and who will die, to protect our way of life is not in accordance with Jesus' teachings and life example. The powers of this world use war today, but as Christians our battle is not against flesh and blood, (not against other people) but against these powers (Eph 6:12). As Christians, we do not wage war as the world does (2 Cor 10:3-4). Long gone are the golden calves (the false gods) of ancient times, who would lead God's people astray. Today, our new false gods are the great nation-states to whom we pledge our allegiance-- willing to die and kill for these earthly powers. We embrace power, influence, and wealth (the weapons of the world) because sin blinds us with the illusion of its effectiveness. Instead, we should follow Jesus' example. No one who reads the Old Testament can deny that there have been times when the people of God were sanctioned to use violence. But no one who reads the Gospels can deny that Jesus taught and took a different path. Indeed, already in the Old Testament God points away from trust in weapons for security. I am your protector, Yahweh reminded repeatedly. Do not place your trust in horses and chariots. Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth... Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy... Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Matt 5:5-9. In closing, Jesus won the "battle" non-violently. In the garden on the night of his death, as Tertullian an early church father so aptly put it, Jesus disarmed the disciples and in so doing, disarmed all his disciples for all time. Amen