Blessed Are the Peacemakers
In the winter of 1984 a small group of friends and I gathered in the
basement classroom of St. John’s Church in Jackson, Michigan, to
discuss the U.S. Catholic Bishops’ Pastoral Letter on War and Peace.
Reagan was in office, the nuclear arms race was in full tilt, and the
Nuclear Freeze Movement was gaining considerable traction.
Since those days many things have changed. More states have gained access to nuclear weapons, but the total number of nuclear warheads on the planet has dropped from 70,000 to just over 25,000. In April of this year, at a nuclear security summit in Washington, Russia and the U.S. reaffirmed their intention to eliminate weapons-grade plutonium from their military caches. The existential anxiety fueled by images of mushroom clouds and talk of mutually assured destruction (MAD) of previous decades has given way to a dull malaise brought on by a constant state of “high terrorist threat levels” and the vague threat of elusive weapons of mass destruction (WMD). And peace movements have broadened their scope from calling for arms reduction to working towards justice for all and the building of social capital in areas beset by poverty.
The themes of peace and war run throughout Scripture like a golden thread; now appearing as a present reality, and again as a future hope. The prophet Micah foretells a day when swords will be beaten into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks, and when “nation will not take up sword against nation, nor will they train for war anymore” (Micah 4:3). On the other hand, Joel challenges the nations to beat their plowshares into swords and their pruning hooks into spears as they gather in the “valley of decision” to receive the Lord’s judgment (Joel 3).
Likewise, prophecies concerning Jesus call him the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6) who will bring peace to the nations (Zechariah 9:10); yet enigmatically Jesus says of himself, “Do not suppose I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a sword” (Matthew 10:34).
These mixed messages about peace in Scripture are reflected in the range of attitudes of present-day Christians towards war. Fellow followers of Jesus find themselves in disagreement about how to pursue peace. Still, there is no escaping the clear call of Scripture to be peacemakers. The Apostle Paul, expounding upon the amazing role given to the Church to be Christ’s ambassadors of reconciliation, cannot hide his astonishment at the responsibility with which the Church is entrusted; it is “as though God were making his appeal through us,” he declares (2 Corinthians 5:20).
This message of reconciliation is not written on golden tablets nor enshrined in a sacred temple. Rather, it lives in the life and language of the worshiping Body of Christ. And it is through this worshiping body that the Lord makes His appeal to the world.
Greg Carmer, Ph.D., is dean of chapel.
Peace on Earth, Peace With the Earth
Ecological pacifism is the extension of the love of one’s neighbor and enemies, advocated by Jesus, to the environment that provides for their flourishing. This gospel recognizes that humanity’s place within the created order is not to dominate it but to live in harmony with it—even to recognize God through it. As Jesus holds the raven and the lily before his disciples, he affirms that nature itself displays the caring provision of God and that these fellow beings, resting each in its specific niche, serve as exemplars of living in harmony with the world and with God. The idea that the planet is to be unrelentingly shaped to serve the ever-increasing desires of humanity, then, represents both a failure of trust and of love.
Ian DeWeese Boyd, Ph.D., is associate professor of philosophy and education.
|Gender, Body(ies) and Shalom
Lauren Swayne Barthold
Christians rightly affirm the importance of our gendered humanity—after all, as the Genesis account notes, our maleness and femaleness reflect the plurality and difference of the Godhead: “Let us make humans in our own image . . . and so male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:26–27). Unfortunately, in our zeal to affirm the significance of gender, we can end up causing each other pain and injustice—both on societal and personal levels.
|The Peacemaking Possibilities of Politics
If the old dictum is true that “war is the continuation of politics by other means,” we might expect to find the Christian peacemaker to be found anywhere but in the thick of political life. Yet politics presents peacemaker opportunities unavailable elsewhere. Indeed, politics is perhaps the only sphere of human life in which that task of conciliating difference is a primary purpose. Today opportunities are relatively rare to meet directly those with whom we disagree and those from whom we are different in fundamental ways—we prefer to hang out with people like ourselves. Politics’ role in peacemaking becomes more important the more we allow this encounter with those others to take place.