Friday, September 25, 2015

So Many Options for Peacemaking; So Little Peace Being Made

If peacemakers are blessed, as Jesus says, then we should try to make peace. Certainly, it’s easier said than done. But you’d think, with so many options available, that something would work.

Option One
“Peace through superior firepower.” This is the basis of the peace imposed on others by various empires. For example, the Pax Romana (The Roman Peace), the Pax Brittanica (The British Peace), the Pax Americana (I think you’re catching on by now), and the Pax Seres (coming soon). It also forms the basis for the wide appeal of the Colt Single-Action Army Revolver ever since 1873, along with the marketing of other weapons and arms systems.

In Romans 13:3-4, the Apostle Paul notes that civil authority “does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.” When law enforcement arrives in most confrontations, the superior firepower often results in a more peaceful resolution than would otherwise occur. But sometimes, the result resembles option two instead.

Option Two
“Peace through identifying common enemies.” Law enforcement officers responding to domestic violence calls know this option well. While a battered spouse may call in hopes of limiting or preventing further physical assault, when it proves necessary to arrest and remove the batterer (or, often, simply the least battered of the two), officers know how quickly they can face not only the resistance of the one being arrested, but of the reporting party as well.

This option has been practiced throughout church history, of course. In its better moments, widely differing denominations and traditions have united for the good of their communities, combating oppression, exploitation, and other damaging influences. With the multiplication of traditions and denominations through schisms, splits, and other church-fights, leaders have often found it advantageous to unite their constituents by focusing on some far more egregious belief or practice seen elsewhere. “Yes, I know these are important issues to resolve…someday. But for now, we need to unite in order to demonstrate the wrongs of our brothers and sisters in (insert name of contrasting theology, tradition, or denomination here).” This practice can also result in option three.

Option Three
“Peace through mutually-assured destruction.” At this writing, two local congregations in my community have suspended operations. One was accused of schism because they objected to the significant shift in theology of the parent denomination. That congregation, largely intact, now meets elsewhere than the building the built and maintained for decades, which now stands empty. The other congregation has endured over a decade of intermittent scattering and regathering, with a variety of issues quoted as causes. Just as options one and two are rarely successful in bringing about peace, so also the threat of mutually-assured destruction does not dissuade conflicting parties from proceeding with their destructive actions. Is there anyone more certain of how right they are than the zealot with the bomb strapped to his own chest?

And yet, some of us see the results of such passionate pursuits, and we determine to avoid not only those holding other positions in such fervor, but any fervor for our own positions as well. And this leads us to the fourth of our options.

Option Four
“Peace through apathetic resignation.” Eeyore is the most peaceful of all the inhabitants in the Hundred-Acre Wood. Granted, he may provoke less-than-optimal responses in others. Tigger’s hyperactivity may be seen as a necessary counter-balance to the contagious lethargy that might otherwise afflict him. Kanga’s maternal instincts are probably enhanced in an attempt to prevent Roo from growing up to experience similar depressive episodes. Even Pooh’s self-medication through his honey addiction may be a vain attempt to heighten life’s enjoyments, even as he shortens its duration through diabetes and, probably, heart disease as well. But for all the collateral damage he might inflame in others, Eeyore will always be the least conflicted of all. He simply does not care enough to hold any other expectation than the worst of all possibilities.

That place of depressed indifference is, I can attest, a peaceful place to be.

There is a means of peacemaking, however, that is blessed, and effective, and relates directly to being the “called children of God” (as Jesus states in the next to last beatitude—Matthew 5:9). If we do remember that all human persons are created to bear the image and likeness of our creator, God, then there are mutual interests we can serve together. The lowest common denominators can be identified in keeping with “The Rule of Threes” in medical triage as air, warmth, water, and food. Three minutes without air, three hours without warmth, three days without water, or three weeks without food, and we cannot help but experience significant physical damage.

We desire so much more, of course. But when our desires outstrip our needs, do we recognize the imbalance that results? If I can acquire more than what I need, then I consign others to have less than what I would want, perhaps less than they would need. And why do I want more? Because I am not at peace with myself, the bearer of God’s image and likeness. Why? Because I do not count my relationship with Him as sufficient. If I am not at peace with God, then I will inflict the iniquity of inequity upon anyone who might prevent me from getting what I want. That, in turn, invites conflict from those who are prevented from having what they need…simply because I want more than that.

Make peace with God, so that you may be at peace with yourself, which enables you to live at peace with others. Or, you can get a bigger gun, and gather others against a mutual enemy, in order to ensure that there will be no survivors on either side, and then—hopefully—recognize the futility of your pursuits and sink into the existential despair of motiveless lethargy.

That, of course, is a peaceful place to be, too. But not nearly so blessed as making peace and being called children of God.

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