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Sunday, March 8, 2015

Peace - At What Cost?


“Admitting that we ought to try the novel and absurd experiment in politics of tying up the hands of government from offensive war founded upon reasons of state, yet certainly we ought not to disable it from guarding the community against the ambition or enmity of other nations…Let us recollect that peace or war will not always be left to our option; that however moderate or unambitious we may be, we cannot count on the moderation, or hope to extinguish the ambition of others…To judge from the history of mankind, we shall be compelled to conclude that the fiery and destructive passions of war reign in the human breast with much more powerful sway than the mild and beneficent sentiments of peace; and that to model our political system upon speculations of lasting tranquility would be to calculate on the weaker springs of the human character.”
Excerpt from The Federalist Papers #34---Alexander Hamilton

Isn't it interesting that the founders of the United States, just a couple hundred years ago, included this kind of statement in the Federalist papers?  

They were explaining that while they might desire to create a country that desires peace, that alone would not guarantee the existence of peace simply because not everybody seeks that same goal.  

Now I will be the first to grant that the history of the U.S. includes a lot of conflicts, some of which could be used to challenge whether or not the U.S. has been a truly peace loving country.  However, there have also been times when our entry into conflict was not just for our own purposes, but for the interests and well-being of others.  And the way we have helped countries after their defeat, represents a different way of treating conquered nations that has at times been exemplary.  

Having said that, though, I think there is great wisdom in the Hamilton's words.  

                           Our desire to have peace, does not determine whether or not our               nation will be drawn into war.  

The wording of this document makes clear that both parties have to desire peace for peace to be attainable.  

Oh, I suppose there is a sense in which that could be considered untrue.  For example, Hitler would have been willing to make peace with the United States--all we had to do was be willing to submit to his absolute authority and be willing to help kill all the Jews and any Christians who disagreed with Hitler or his anti-Semitic policies, as well as others designated inferior or undesirable.  

And nobody can say that ISIS or Boko Haram wouldn't be willing to negotiate peace with others.  All that is required is for us all to be willing to bow to the new "caliphate" and to live under an antiquated interpretation called “Sharia law,” and demand that all women be appropriately covered so that not even a single hair would appear that could "cause" some poor man to lust.  Any takers?

Noble though the ideal is that we could just sit down and talk things out with people of radical points of view, just as the writers of the Federalist Papers were keenly aware, in this real world there are individuals who are more interested in having their way than they are in having peace that would require any kind of compromise.  

By that same Federalist guidance, our government officials are expected to recognize those realities of life in this world and respond accordingly.  Theologically, these issues exist because of “the Fall” and the sinful nature of humankind.

Let me point out, though, that there are those, like the Society of Friends (Quakers), Mennonites, Amish and others, who actually practice pacificism, even at personal cost to themselves.  Biblically, their lives are based on teachings such as that “Those who live by the sword shall die by the sword,” and “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.”  

I admire their sincerity and their idealism.  Maybe I should be the same.  

Even if I did, it may well be that what I practice as an individual be different from what is required of governmental authority, which is expected to protect all its citizens from aggression.  

At the same time, the scriptures are also clearly against the opposite mistake, which is putting trust for protection in military power INSTEAD of in God, rather than recognizing that the military power might be a tool used by God.  

That was perhaps best illustrated in the story of David and Goliath, where Goliath came with weapons of war mocking God, and David came to battle with a few stones in the NAME of God.  

Frankly, I firmly believe that this trust in military power was a primary factor in the victory by the Allied Forces in World War II.  Though I also think an argument could be made that many in the United States have forgotten where their trust ought to be.  (Without diminishing the foreign aid and other generosity by the people of the U.S., I have often wondered if we had spent as much money and research on weapons of peace as we have weapons of war, what kind of world we might have helped create.)

Sadly, the real life of conflict I just described on an international scale, also exists in many marriages, households and families.  

There are many individuals experiencing that fact while in the midst of divorce or suddenly faced with contemplating divorce.  

There cannot truly be peace with a person who refuses peace.  

Some individuals in marriage choose peace at any price, but that might mean being willing to accept that one's spouse sleeps around every week, or being willing to accept the physical and emotional scars of abuse...neither one of which fits any legitimate definition of a healthy marriage.  Others experience the brokenness of strained relationships with children or other family members.  

Many of our families at many times are very far from our best aspirations and ideals, wouldn't you say?  

If we cannot effectively and consistently maintain peace within marriages of two, or in our households of a few, then is it realistic to think we are going to manage to do so between nations of millions, which include people we don't even know or may not love as much as we do individuals in our own homes?  Not that the pursuit of peace and for people to be able to live in harmony with one another are not noble goals to pursue in our marriages, household and world, but we must pursue them with open eyes and realistic perspectives.  That might be worth remembering the next time you hear of another war between countries.  It also might be worth remembering the next time you hear of another divorce.

Forgive me for not looking up the precise wording he used, but in his books recounting his years in the White House, Henry Kissinger writes that historians often talk about countries existing side by side, until the moment war breaks out between them.  

Kissinger then goes on to say that a more accurate view of the history of mankind might be described as nations at war with one another, and hat every once in a while, peace breaks out.  

I do believe one of our most godly moments is when we are the ones who actively help peace break out…in our homes, our communities, our churches and our world.  Or to at least be involved in trying.   And sometimes that means leaning on and supporting those who are the peace keepers in our world.  

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