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War and Peace

As war in the Middle East rears its ugly head once again, any person of conscience must wrestle with the question of war. Naturally, on the Web one can find a second front, the war of ideas. At First Things, Richard John Neuhaus’ “Sounds of Religion in a Time of War” is a typically well-considered assessment of the war in Iraq while George Weigel brings the “just war” tradition to bear in “Moral Clarity in a Time of War”. LeaderU features a number of articles in “Warview: Iraq, the US, and World Opinion”. While one could have hoped for wisdom on war from a secular worldview, B. Stephen Matthies at The Secular Web instead offers a critical review of Christian approaches in “Just War Tradition, Pacificism, and Nonviolence” The pacifist position is well represented at Sojourners Magazine and Pax Christi. See “Just? Unjust?” by George Lopez and “Liberation Without War” by Jack Duvall.

Most of us are not in a position to be making decisions about wars between nations. But we are not, therefore, unable to be peacemakers. I am of the belief that the occasions for war on a geopolitical level bubble-up from the bottom; that it is the failure of individuals to be persons of peace in their day-to-day that leads to situations in which their leaders feel compelled to go to war on their behalf.

I am unimpressed by activists for peace, for example, when their activism is marked by a lack of love, by contempt, rage, prejudice, name calling, and no effort to understand those who believe a particular war to be just and necessary. This is not peacemaking. On the other hand, most of us are oblivious to what bullying is done around the world on our behalf to secure the lifestyle and privileges we expect.

Each of us who laments war and longs for peace must soberly ask, “Am I at peace with my neighbors, my father and mother, my sisters and brothers. Do I forgive, do I assume the best, do I make my decisions with due consideration of how they might wound another. Though I may be overwhelmed and at a loss with respect to wars between nations, it is well within my power to make peace with my “enemies”. In this endeavor, Jesus leads the way. He exhorts us to love our enemies and treat them as our friends. He relinquished his own rights for the sake of others. And, rejecting vigilantism when there was due cause, he entrusted himself “to Him who judges justly”, that is, he left judgment to God.

Much can be argued about the application of these principles, but there can be no doubt that in him we see the kind of life that defuses enmity and leads to peace with one’s fellow man. Blessed are the peacemakers.