Friday, January 6, 2012

January is Peace Month! (part 1)


"Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called children of God." -Jesus

I know, the question you're probably asking yourself is, why only one month? Why not shoot for like twelve months? Good question. But have you ever actually tried having peace year round? Interpersonal? Intrapersonal? Global? It's exhausting! Another way to answer this question is to say, that a few years ago the Northwest Yearly Meeting of Friends (Quakers) decided that to promote and educate about our historic and present-day Peace Testimony we should take a month. January, being the most dreary and boring month, was chosen. I'm not sure how this decision was reached - extensive pew studies, polling, prayer, discernment, coin flip, phone a friend.

But when I heard about it a few years ago I was like, yeah, I'm in. In our previous church, where my wife and I co-pastored, I realized that we had a diverse set of beliefs concerning this topic (is that the politically correct way of saying it?) We had among us contentiousness objectors from the Vietnam War, WW2 Veterans, conservative, liberal and everything in between. One pastor friend, who I think was surprised I was attempting to tackle such a sticky topic (in Idaho) gave me some wisdom. He said, "I always start with the assumption that we all want peace." I took that to heart (and shamelessly plagiarized him over the next few years).

But you know, given all the different perspectives out there on war and peace... how our faith intersects... where we think Jesus stands on this issue... I begin with this one assumption - we all want peace. Right? (this insight just came to me one day). Now, the question is how to best achieve peace. Some follow up questions include: What is the right way of achieving peace? (Some wonder if this question even has a place in the discussion.) What does the Bible teach about peace? (like most things it depends in part on where you look and what you are looking for). What does Jesus really say about peace, conflict, violence? (This question seems really relevant and also really inconvenient for (many) Christians.) What means are actually effective in achieving sustained peace? (Movements like Gandhi's and MLK's which used radical, nonviolent protest were able to achieve what violence could not.)

These were some of the things we explored in past years and it was a great (although rare) conversation starter. Some people, who I had few words with previously, wanted to tell me the Bible verses that condone war and violence. Or they brought up hypothetical points about attackers breaking in at night. Others made logical arguments about justice and evil forces hell bent on destruction. For some this wasn't just speculation, they had first hand experience with the ugliness and brutality of war and the fear of said evil forces. I would mostly respond "pastorally" by nodding and looking thoughtful. If nothing else, it was good, real life practice in peaceful dialogue. Not always successful, but good practice. One thing I regret is that people didn't feel safe discussing their views in a nonanxious way, with those who didn't agree with them. I would see people cluster and support each other and agree with one another. We do this all the time. It feels good. It is the opposite of peacemaking.

This year for peace month, we (read: some) in the NWYM are going through the Quaker distinctives - Simplicity, Peace, Integrity, Community, and Equality (SPICE). I am really excited to learn, grow, share, and build community around these values. Also, I am kind of a sucker for (and am annoyed by) acronyms. But this one, SPICE, has been rolling around in my brain for the last few months (in anticipation) and I have found it really helpful in centering my prayer and journalism time.

Well, I planned on talking about SPICE, but I think I'll save it for the next post. Happy Peace Month. Good Luck!

Related Posts By Brad
Give Peace Month a Chance
The Bomb and Truth Telling
How not to be a Knee Jerk

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