Monday, August 20, 2018

TTT #22 Jesus Expects His Followers to be Peacemakers

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.]


  1. I just now received the first comments on this new blog article. It is from Thinking Friend, and church friend, Debra Sapp-Yarwood. I appreciate her talking the time to send these comments:

    "THIS is why I am Mennonite, and not any of the other Christianities (or UU), in which I have participated long enough to experience the driving center of their theology. In the other faith traditions, peacemaking is considered a nice vocation, if you choose it, but it's optional, like simplicity or hospitality. For Mennonites (and the other historic peace churches or the peace-centered offshoots of larger churches -- like Catholic Worker Movement), peacemaking is central and hence compels simplicity and hospitality.

    1. Thanks, Debra, for your comments. Actually, I wrote the original draft of this chapter in TTT before becoming a member of Rainbow Mennonite Church, but one of the main reasons I became a Mennonite is because I thought/believed in this way--and I am so glad to be a part of church now where peacemaking/pacifism is the norm rather than the (sometimes vilified) exception.

  2. A Thinking Friend, and personal friend from way back, sent me an email with this brief comment:

    "I don`t understand how we can prevent the overtaking of our country and our freedom to worship our GOD without going to war in some instances to insure that right."

    1. Peacemaking always needs to be done before there is any necessity of war, and the reason it has often seemed to become "necessary" to wage war is because peacemakers failed to adequately wage peace--and to pursue social justice, which is always necessary for true peace.

      Also, as Christians our loyalty must always be to Christ primarily and to country only secondarily--and we have the obligation to love not only our fellow Christian brothers and sisters in our own country but in "enemy" countries as well.

      As I have written before, most wars of the past could have prevented if Christians had refused to fight or even refused to kill other Christians. How sad that not only have so many Christians failed to love their enemies, they have not even loved their Christian brothers and sisters enough not to fight against them in war.

  3. Local Thinking Friend Larry Guillot shares these comments:

    "Encouraging as well as insightful. Your examples across Christianity to current exemplars remind us to what we are all called to--at a time when civic strife is paralyzing, 'culture wars' are debilitating, and nuclear proliferation continues, now by updating nuclear devices. Trump would have us start planning for 'Space wars.' John Dear comes to KC, Oct. 25, at Avila, as part of their 'Buchanan Institute for nonviolence and peace'(Buchanan the name of a donor)."

    1. Thanks, as always, Larry, for reading and responding to my blog article this morning.

      I was happy to hear about Fr. John Dear coming to Kansas City again this fall. I heard him speak, and was able to chat with him just a bit, at Community Christian Church in KC back in 2014, and I look forward to the possibility of hearing him speak at Avila University in October.

  4. This was another article worthy of reading in full as a chapter. It is indeed encouraging to see the many who went before us in full obedience to Jesus in the matter of peacemaking.

    We all need to decide who to listen to. Many are listening to those who say they can protect America by bombing the @#! out of our enemies. René Gerard tells us that “all violence has a mimetic character,” and being inherently imitative, violence exacts violence in return.

  5. I have enjoyed the chapters of this book. This chapter is difficult.

    Life experience and observation. Pacifism seems great opportunity to stand back and watch martyrdom grow with a blessing. I wish a former Mennonite girlfriend from high school was still around, but she passed away 12 years ago. I would love to discuss this with her. My other Mennonite friend just considers pacifism a given - the religion he was raised in, even though his father was shunned by his family for leaving the Amish. All my Quaker friends have now either left that brand of Christian faith, or rejected faith entirely - none are pacifist anymore. They lived and saw the realities of life as well. Some went on to join the military to protect life and freedom.

    Some point to this or that person as an exemplar. The only one I changed my mind on was Nelson Mandela. He lived it in truth. But he is now gone, and so is his vision. I don't see it in Christ - He was balanced in His mission, and above singular aspects.

    I am glad you find a home for yourself in this calling.

    I find defense and war to be necessities of life to save the innocent from tyranny and evil. "Speak softly, but carry a big stick." Hopefully, speaking softly is sufficient. But personally, I have found the big stick to be necessary a few times, and should have been used a few other times instead standing by to witness martyrdom.

    I choose to follow the general scheme of life. Life and let live. But willing to offer a good defense for the defenseless. If necessary when confronting evil - live and let die.

    Let my motto be: GOODWILL

    ن +

    1. There is much I could (and perhaps should) write in response to the above comments, but perhaps it will suffice to share what I wrote in response to an email from an old friend who wrote about the necessity of protecting "the innocent from tyranny and evil."

      " . . . thanks for engaging in serious thought about what it means for Christians to use, or not use, violence. -- Let me remind you that for the first three hundred years after Christ, his followers had few freedoms, many were martyred, yet this was the period when Christianity grew the fastest. And it was during those 300 years that Christians, with maybe a few exceptions, refused to fight. They practiced non-violence not because others were warring for them but in spite of others warring against them. Individually, and as a group, they no doubt sought to defend/protect themselves and their loved ones--but in nonviolent ways. Many chose to die (and go to Heaven) rather than to kill an enemy (who would most likely not go to Heaven)."

    2. I believe martyr Jim Elliot said much the same. But I don't think I can stand by after what I have seen and experienced in my lifetime. The European Resistance offer a good model. I have a friend whose father was with the French Resistance. Dietrich Bonhoeffer was as well. As were some Jesuits (their story is a mixed bag).

      The Christians in Syria, Egypt, Iraq, and Iran dwindle, and yet we do nothing, except maybe pray.


    3. 1sojourner, you may be interested to know that Simone Weil, the subject of today's (8/25) new blog article, was a pacifist throughout most of her short life, but toward the end of her life (in 1943) she rejected pacifism and supported armed resistance to the Nazis, even wanting to engage in military action herself.