The 22nd chapter of Thirty True Things . . . (TTT) was not one of the chapters planned for that book. But in the process of writing the previous chapter, linked to in my Aug. 10 blog article, I became aware of how closely related are the ideas of simple living and peacemaking.
Simple Living and Peacemaking
In looking back at exemplary Christians through the centuries, most of those most interested in simple living were also interested in peacemaking, and many of those most interested in peacemaking were also interested in simple living.
In that connection, through the years I have also become increasingly cognizant of how there seems to be a significant economic factor behind most major historical events, including, and especially, wars. In spite of all the high-sounding rhetoric, wars are almost always fought for economic reasons, at least in part.
In his State of the Union message in January 2002, President George W. Bush referred to three countries as “the axis of evil.” Those three countries were Iran, Iraq, and North Korea. The next year war was launched against Iraq, and there have been repeated rumblings about a future war against Iran.
While the government of North Korea has often been renounced, until briefly in 2017 there had been little talk of going to war against that country. What is the difference? It is hard to deny that the abundance of oil in the Middle East and the scarcity of oil in North Korea was likely the major reason Iran and Iraq were targeted and North Korea was not.
If population pressures, the need for natural resources, the desire for markets are all factors lying behind most wars (a generalization that, admittedly, some historians would disagree with), it is not hard to understand that an emphasis on simple living is closely related to peacemaking.
Peacemaking as Love in Action
One of Martin Luther King’s notable books contains fifteen sermons published under the title Strength to Love (1963). Two sermons appearing early in the book are “Love in Action” and “Love Your Enemies,” and then the final sermon is “Pilgrimage to Nonviolence.”
Those sermons sum up well what everyone needs to realize about love, which is at the core of the Christian faith.
Christian pacifists, such as Francis of Assisi and the Anabaptists, do not base their peacemaking activities upon the optimistic belief that people are basically good and that peace can result from that goodness if people just tap into it and talk to each other in a rational manner.
No, Christian pacifism is primarily based on Jesus’ teachings about love.
Christian pacifism does not necessarily “work” in every case. You might say it didn’t “work” for Jesus. It didn’t work for numerous Christian martyrs through the centuries, people who out of obedience to Christ were willing to shed their own blood rather than to be engaged in killing other people.
And so to the present time, many of those who take Jesus’ teaching seriously refuse to support war, for they do not see how it would be possible to love their enemies if they were also seeking to kill them through warfare.
People like Dorothy Day, MLK, John Dear, and many others during my lifetime have made it quite clear that peacemaking is hard, dangerous work. And most of the people who want to be “good” Christians fall far short of the example that people like them have set.
But in a world where Christianity has often become entwined with war and warlike activities, people such as Day, King, and Dear challenge us to realize that Jesus expects his followers to be peacemakers.
[The entire chapter 22 of Thirty True Things Everyone Needs to Know Now (TTT) can be accessed here.]