Wednesday, November 13, 2013

Peace—at the point of a gun?

Perhaps you’ve seen this new version of a “coexist” bumper sticker. If you can’t make it out from the picture, the letters that spell out the word “coexist” are gun manufacturers.  It’s a different “coexist” entirely, and I must say, fairly clever. 
Being that I’m a person who over-thinks things like this, when I first saw this my mind immediately went to the apparent contradiction between gun manufacturers and the word “coexist.”  In fairness, to those sporting the sticker, the two go hand in hand—violence is rebuffed by the threat of violence.  Or, to simplify as NRA executive VP Wayne LaPierre (in)famously said, “The only thing that stops a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun." If you’re not following, LaPierre, and folks who align with him believe that peace is ultimately achieved through violence—or at least the threat of it.

Coming from a Christian perspective, I find such ideology extremely troubling, for I remember the texts from the Hebrew Scriptures which speak of a vision of peace without violence, where weapons of war are no longer necessary and methods of war no longer need to be taught. Consider the words of the prophet Isaiah:

Many peoples shall come and say,
‘Come, let us go up to the mountain of the Lord,
   to the house of the God of Jacob;
that he may teach us his ways
   and that we may walk in his paths.’
For out of Zion shall go forth instruction,
   and the word of the Lord from Jerusalem. 
He shall judge between the nations,
   and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
   and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
   neither shall they learn war any more.

The prophet Micah also repeats this same vision, of a day in time where people follow the ways of God, a way of peace, not violence.

He shall judge between many peoples,
   and shall arbitrate between strong nations far away;
they shall beat their swords into ploughshares,
   and their spears into pruning-hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
   neither shall they learn war any more;

Say what you want, but the biblical vision of peace is not one where we stockpile weapons or rely on the threat of force. A biblical vision of peace is that where our weapons of war are melted down into farming tools—specifically—where humans stop investing into things that destroy life but rather into that which engenders life.
Consider for a moment the United States, where more than half of discretionary spending goes towards “national defense.”  Even considering the entire federal budget, the US spends as much money on harming people as it does on healing people (military vs. Medicaid/care). So For being a “Christian nation” the US is hardly following after the biblical vision.

 America is 12 plus years into a seemingly endless “war on terror;” a war which President Obama has disappointingly continued on through drone strikes and other covert military actions.  The question begs, are we any safer? Or, more specifically, are there less people in the world who want to do harm to America?
The answer to that is clearly “NO,” as reports have details, drone strikes and similar measures only further anger and radicalize. One U.S. official estimated that for every “terrorist” killed by a drone strike, 40-60 new enemies are created.  Even sixteen-year-old Pakistani women’s rights activist Malala Yousafzai told President Obama that drone strikes are doing more harm than good for the cause of “peace.”

Any overview of American foreign policy should reveal that America has seemingly followed after the vision of “Pax Romana” or the “Peace of Rome” which was achieved through violent military defeat and continued subjugation and oppression of all dissidents.    Such peace via the sword was one of the main critiques of the apocalyptic book of Revelation in the Bible (despite what some crazy rapture “theologians” would have you believe).  The problem with an illegitimate and unfaithful interpretation of Revelation as “rapture theology” is that it presents God as righting the world via a giant blood-bath.  Such an interpretation lends credence to the ideal that peace can be achieved through violence. Such an interpretation is wholly inaccurate.
Whether it be on a national level in regards to foreign policy, or on a personal level,  I find it very hard for anyone to square a profession of Christian faith with the belief that peace is achieved through violence—or the threat thereof.   The biblical vision of peace is not achieved through military might or violent divine intervention, but rather faithfully following after the ways of God—which begins by truly loving one’s neighbor as yourself—not threatening them with violence.

1 comment:

  1. Thank you for this! Find more at peace ven