Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Peace Out

As the season of Advent begins, I've been pondering some things.

Is it possible to “fight for peace”?

Can an armed force ever truly be called “peacekeepers”? Or we might ask, is what they are keeping really peace?

It is said so often that it has almost become cliché to say that God’s peace is more than just the absence of conflict. Shalom is life without fear, a way of being that is comprised of justice and mercy, grounded in the everlasting love of God, cultivated in the presence of the Holy Spirit, and manifest in the person of Christ Jesus of Nazareth.

In our human fallibility, we tend to equate peace with everyone pretending to get along with one another. But that’s not peace. There’s more.

You know those family gatherings where there you avoid broaching certain topics because you know the ensuing conversation is not going to be pretty? And then you think that, if you can just avoid the given topic for a couple hours, it will all be over and you can go home? Yeah, you know what I’m talking about … well, that’s not peace. Even if everyone is pretending to be cheery, you know you’re all thinking about the thing you’re not going to be talking about, wondering who will slip up and say something first, and then how the lovely dessert that Aunt Ethel worked so hard on will just be ruined, thanks a lot you.

No, pretending to be cheery for Aunt Ethel’s sake is not peace. Peace is the way that you handle the issue, not the resolution. Peace requires you to address the conflict with love, understanding, respect, and graciousness. You might resolve it, you might not. That’s not the point. The point is in the way you approach it.

Expand that example outward to talk about churches, or communities, or nations. What if we reconceived everything, to think of peace as the way we approach any given situation, rather than the resolution of the situation one way or the other. How would that be? What would that look like?

Beating swords into plowshares would be more than just pretty poetry, it would be a weekend activity. There would be “Spears Into Pruning Hooks” courses offered at High Schools all over the world. War would be something that we learn about in history books, not something we learn how to do in combat training.

Peace within one’s self – peace in our personal relationships – peace in our communities – peace in our world. God’s peace is a way of living that ought to impact every level of life. If we are serious about the presence of God being everywhere, all the time, we need to reflect that in our actions, everywhere and all the time.

(btw, cool Advent Stuff here - Its All About the Presence)


Kansas Bob said...

"Peace is the way that you handle the issue, not the resolution."

I like that Andy! I am thankful for you today! Hope your Thanksgiving is filled with joy!

filmfan28 said...

I agree that there is very little that justifies violence, that diplomatic relationships and negotiations are always preferable to military action. In general, people do benefit from conflict. There is violence in many different places and very few people can find any good in it. Violence plagues our world. However, in the case of UN peacekeeping forces, they have done a considerable amount of good. Since 1948, when UN peacekeeping forces first started on peacekeeping missions, have acted in 63 fields of action, allowing dozens of countries to participate in free and open elections, and successfully disarming more than 400,000 combatants. These are just a few of the many things that UN peacekeeping forces have done, and they have literally saved hundreds of thousands of lives. By what seems to be your definition of “peacekeeping,” they may not be fully successful. There are still instances of violence around the world, looking from the Democratic Republic of the Congo, the Middle East, and the recent events in North and South Korea. When you look towards the actual job of peacekeeping forces however, they are doing amazing work with stopping as many acts of violence as possible. There is still significant amount of work to be done with peacemaking and peace building. I question whether we will ever get to the point where we will not need to work on peacemaking and peace building. Peacekeepers around the world are “keeping peace,” however, the question is whether the diplomats and other parties involved are willing to work to make and build peace to go along with it. For example, taking into consideration the Darfur region. Let’s assume for the moment that for the most part the violence has subsided. There may be a few instances of violence that the peacekeepers could not crush, but for the most part, the violence is over. This is a success of the UN peacekeepers. However, if you were to assume that there are no more problems between the ethnically different cultures in the region, you would be sadly mistaken. The peacekeepers have done their job. They have stopped the violence. It is now up to the peacemakers and peacebuilders to take up the peace process.

Sorry for the rant. It has become something that I am very passionate about over the past few months. I think it is very important to understand the distinctions between the three things, and I think in general people don’t make them often enough. I think that a lot of times people don’t consider UN peacekeepers to be effective enough because they don’t see them as just the first step of the process. It is only when the diplomats come in to make and build peace that what the general public sees as “peacekeeping” truly happens.
-Tara Hammer

Andy B. said...

Thanks, Tara. Your comments are well taken, and I agree. I was not really intending to refer to specific work of UN forces around the world. I affirm and agree with all of the good they have helped to bring about. I was hoping to evoke broader consideration about the character of peace in general.