Tag Archives: peacemakers

Pastoral Meanderings On Memorial Day

War is a sin.

Sometimes the greater sin is not to stand against evil.  We live in a fallen world.

The Nation State is idolatrous by nature.  Christians therefore should be very careful when the Nation State tries to convince them of what is evil and who must die for it.

Christ was murdered by and for an empire (the First Century Roman).  Those who fight for any empire need to be aware of the risks of executing Christs.

Those who refuse to fight evil on the principle of peace should be careful that peace does not become a shield for cowardice and at least seriously entertain the notion that a refusal to fight evil because of peace may in fact destroy peace.  No one less than Gandhi –that great soul who coined the term, satyagraha (soul force) and practiced non-violence–had at one time threatened to offer himself as a combatant soldier.  “And this because,” he said, “I see that my countrymen are not refraining from acts of physical violence because of love for their fellows, but from cowardice; and peace with cowardice is much worse than a battlefield with bravery.”

Christ led no army, did not participate in raids or battles.  He said, “blessed are the peacemakers.”

The United States is not a Christian nation.  Christians of all kinds should wake up and accept that as not only a fact but a necessity for pluralistic, peaceful government.  Muslims and others who assert the U.S. is a Christian country often do so in order to conjure up the ghosts of the Arabic Conquest and the aftermath of Crusades.

Seek peace and pursue it.  Wage Peace.

Violence as a strategy for resolution of conflict is innately self-contradictory.  America’s cities are awash in blood because we have accepted the lie of violence.

The world is awash in blood and war in large part because religions have embraced violence and corrupted their holy scriptures, using what is holy for what is most corrupt and horrific. Religion has for too long been and is “a refuge of human savagery” [Whitehead].  Beware then of religion.

The sons of the Enlightenment and science provided the world with efficient tools of mechanized death, poison gas, airplanes that became weapons, the nuclear bomb and many, many other hideous weapons.  Beware then of those who claim science and reason have made them superior.

For those who have given their service and sacrificed their bodies and minds and given the supreme sacrifice of their lives for freedom, we hallow your memory and thank you for your bravery and service.

Memorial Day is the day we remember these sacrifices.  It is also a day we pray that there will be no more wars and no more soldiers added to the list of the remembered because peace has overcome war.

Until that day, we are compelled to live in two realms.  One realm is our own country. The other realm is the kingdom of God.  One will end. The other will never end.  Let this instruct your navigation of these realms.

Baltimore and the threshold of violence

credit: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky
credit: AP Photo/Patrick Semansky

We pray for the safety and well-being of everyone in Baltimore and  a restoration to order and détente.  Jesus said, “Blessed are the peacemakers.”  Calling all peacemakers!  We need calm and reasonable discourse.

This past Sunday, I preached a “pastoral” sermon on thresholds and alarms.  It was a sermon aimed at our day-to-day spiritual journey.  For those of you who heard it the following remarks will likely make more sense. For those of you who have not, you can hear it under the sermons tab.  In that sermon I offered a simple aphorism:  “be aware of thresholds and alarms [that go off at thresholds].”  So with that in mind let me make a remark or two about what is transpiring in Baltimore.

A riot is a threshold and an alarm.    Of course, at even a superficial level we understand this when we see stores looted and burned, cars burned and police officers hurt by debris thrown at them.  But I mean this statement at a deeper level. It is a commentary on our society at the moment.  A riot is a striking sign that something is wrong with us collectively.  I do not mean by that statement that those individuals who harm and destroy are not to be held responsible.  What I do mean is that a riot is a societal disruption along the lines of a stroke in an individual.  We can all grasp that of course because we have known someone who has had a stroke or heart attack and then must deal with what that event means across a continuum of any number of issues in their lives (diet, stress, exercise, genetic makeup so on and so forth).  It would be a foolish conclusion if we as a nation decided to read these events as mere morality plays.  A riot is a threshold and alarm and we need to find people of good will all along the continuum who can begin helping us sort out the factors and ingredients that led to this.

There are plenty of failures and yes, some of those failures are individual or familial ones. So we need to talk about the failure of parenting no doubt.  But there are large, looming failures of our national policies and rhetoric that dwarf those failures that play out in individuals.   One individual, for example, stealing a loaf of bread from a store is an example of theft but a system, like segregation, stole the educations and dignity of millions of persons. You can see the point.  We can and should talk about individual responsibility and failure, but a riot is a threshold that an entire community and nation crosses and the alarms are warning us to speak to those societal and national policies that deprive persons of hope and freedom.

Wars are violent, riots are violent and both should be avoided.  We will hear a lot of sanctimonious language about peace and civility in the coming days from talking heads who have given voice to wars and promoted preemptive attacks against people who did not attack us.  One must pause in such discourse and ask such persons why they are so comfortable with violence in one arena but so opposed to it in another. There are differences between wars and riots but America has glorified violence too often as a solution.  And rioters need to hear this as much as any right wing talking head:  violence is not a solution. In fact, as I already stated, it is a sign of failure of a people to find a common path toward mutual regard.  Let’s talk about those rioters but let’s spend some time on the threshold and ponder how repeated incidents of police beatings and killings of unarmed civilians, along with desperate economic contexts push people over a threshold into something as self-destructive and ineffective as a riot.  I’ll close with Dr. King’s words in Stride Toward Freedom:  “Violence as a way of achieving racial justice is both impractical and immoral. It is impractical because it is a descending spiral ending in destruction for all. The old law of an eye for an eye leaves everybody blind. It is immoral because it seeks to humiliate the opponent rather than win his understanding; it seeks to annihilate rather than to convert. Violence is immoral because it thrives on hatred rather than love. It destroys community and makes brotherhood impossible. It leaves society in monologue rather than dialogue. Violence ends by defeating itself.”  We have crossed a threshold. An alarm is sounding for us to step up with courage and find a way toward one another.