Monday, May 22, 2006

Paradox of Peace

Sometimes I think life is simply a series of paradoxes that God uses for entertainment to befuddle us. Here is a good one from James Loney, one of the Christian Peacemaker Team members who was kidnapped and held captive in Iraq a few months ago.

Loney gave an Easter sermon entitled "From the Tomb", where he describes his capitivity. It is well worth the read, and isn't very long - see

Here’s an excerpt:

I am learning many things from my captivity, and have a universe of things to be grateful for. Among them is a new and deep appreciation for the women and men who wear the uniform of military service. I likely would not be writing this today if it were not for them. Thus, I am confronted with a great paradox. I, the Christian pacifist peacemaker, am alive, am free because of the very institutions I believe are contrary to Christian teaching.

Christ teaches us to love our enemies, do good to those who harm us, pray for those who persecute us. He calls us to accept suffering before we inflict injury. He calls us to pick up the cross and to lay down the sword. We will most certainly fail in this call. I did. And I'll fail again. This does not change Christ's teaching that violence itself is the tomb, violence is the dead-end. Peace won through the barrel of a gun might be a victory but it is not peace. Our captors had guns and they ruled over us. Our rescuers had bigger guns and ruled over the captors. We were freed, but the rule of the gun stayed. The stone across the tomb of violence has not been rolled away.

I'm learning that there are many kinds of prisons and many kinds of tombs. Prisons of the mind, the heart, the body. Tombs of despair, fear, confusion. Tombs within tombs and prisons within prisons. There are no easy answers. We must all find our way through a broken world, struggling with the paradox of call and failure. My captivity and rescue have helped me to catch a glimpse of how powerful the force of resurrection is. Christ, that tomb-busting suffering servant Son of God, seeks us wherever we are, reaches for us in whatever darkness we inhabit. May we reach for each other with that same persistence. The tomb is not the final word.

I’ll be honest and admit that I haven’t totally worked out my own version of pacifism yet. I was always attracted to the idea (and it was one of the things that attracted me to Mennonites), but didn’t know how practical it was. Then this illegal and immoral war happened, and I've been thrust into a pacifist position.

There’s no question that the use of violence taints whoever uses it, and that violence almost always begets more violence. Pacifism as a practice is very good at preventing violence, but once a war starts or a kidnapping happens, it is hard to stop it without being tainted in *some* way. Thus, keeping absolute our very God-centered principles can *sometimes* cause more suffering in the end.

The problem is, most people leap headlong into violence as a solution first, justifying it as necessary to prevent further suffering, without really considering other options. People tend to forget that necessary evils are every bit as soul-threatening as unnecessary ones.

One only need look at the new allegations of outright murder by American soldiers in Haditha, Iraq (see to see the inevitable result of violence as policy.

1 comment:

Brownie said...

I think war will be with us as long as the poor will be with us. And Jesus said they would always be with us. War, poverty, ignorance, hate, injustice must exist. They must exist so that human beings can appreciate peace, prosperity, enlightenment, love and fairness. There is no good without evil, no yin without yang.

Don't misconstrue my meaning. I am not condoning those things (the bad ones I mean), I am simply pointing out that they must exist. I would add that I believe we must also fight against them at every turn.

However, we must bear in mind that God does not grant the same gifts to all people. So the one who fights against evil with a strong public voice and political activism must not condemn the one who fights with his vote alone, or the one who fights with his daily example, or the one who fights by giving, or the one who fights in private talks. For each is doing his part inasmuch as God has granted him his gifts.