Whoa, so I may be about to put out one of the more controversial pieces that we have seen in a long time. However, something that has been weighing heavily on my mind recently is peace and how we approach this as Americans and as a society in general. After sitting through countless hours of Christmas in Christ Chapel, saying hundreds of prayers, and singing songs for peace you think I would be a big proponent of it by now, right?
Well, I think that there is a serious conversation that needs to happen that we are shying away from whenever we send out a prayer for peace or call for action. Here it is: Peace is a very complex problem, both philosophically and theologically. Our conversations about peace are simple and well-intentioned at best, but misleading at worst.
The philosophical problem lies within how we understand the world around us. Depending on your orientation towards the world everything may naturally tend towards chaos or order. Do you believe in determinism or radical free will? Whichever way you go there are serious complications that form from your stance in relation to peace.
If you believe in determinism, which we will say for the sake of brevity means that everything aims at a predetermined end, then we have a world that was created without peace. The natural world is not peaceful. Earth was formed out of chaos, mistakes, and situations that cannot be replicated.
I for one, reject determinism as a folly and cop out. So let’s say that we as humankind are endowed with radical free will.
Our conversations about peace are simple and well-intentioned at best, but misleading at worst.
When presented with free will our problems as humans compound upon one another even more. We have an insatiable appetite for all things violent. I am not just talking about video games or gun rights. No, think about how we love action movies, dystopian books, and politics that are aggressive.
Are we not entertained? We live in a new Rome where the colosseum is now the media circus and the court is that of public opinion. Et tu, Brute? I am Brutus and you are too. If with our radical free will we desired peace above all else we could have it within a year. However, we all profit off the violence that plagues the world around us. America, the West, indeed, modern society itself was not formed off a dialogue of peace and this runs through our collective consciousness stronger than we know.
Now what about theology? We pray to God and ask where he is in the violence that surrounds us. However, how much do we really know about that which exists outside space and time? The Prince of Peace and the Day of the Lord within the Bible are two motifs that will not signify peace in the slightest upon their arrival. The Prophet Amos warns us of the Day of the Lord and John of Patmos in his revelation states that Jesus will come to judge.
The world will not end in peace, but with a remarkable amount of violence if we adhere to sacred texts. Faith only further complicates notions of peace once we realize that it is not in agreement about the natural state of the world. In the King James Version of the Bible “peace” shows up 470 times, “death” 456, “wicked” 413, “war” 280, “battle” 232, and “kill”/”killed” 208. Faith is certainly not without its recognition of the darker aspects of humanity.
The questions of determinism and free will once again enter the conversation when speaking about peace in relation to faith. There is no simple answer and we must push ourselves to think outside the little picture of the problems occurring around us. I cannot help but to feel amazed when we look at violence happening in other parts of the world and try to help them as if we are any better.
Birth, life, and death are not peaceful and we crave security so badly that we will do anything to convince ourselves that it is possible.
It is the remnants of empiricism and colonialism that teaches us to pity and grieve for others without a recognition of our own faults and brokenness. We have much to learn about the state of our own affairs when we decide to finally crane our necks out of our high glass windows and look at others. Unfortunately, we usually choose not to do so if we can avoid it.
So what do I believe? The natural state of our universe is that of discomfort and violent unrest. Birth, life, and death are not peaceful and we crave security so badly that we will do anything to convince ourselves that it is possible.
Instead, we must recognize that which is wrong with ourselves and the world around us and then strive to do the best we can to serve our neighbor. We cannot create heaven here on earth and to think we can do so borders on hubris. We must stop burying our heads in the sand or in our hands when we must roll up our sleeves and dive into the messiness and chaos that is life.
Sure, praying for peace sounds great and all, but this isn’t Ms. Congeniality. No, this is real life. World peace is something that exists in the understanding, but nowhere within reality. Peace is not the natural state of things, so now the question is what will you do with that realization. My hope would be that you would stop putting the affairs of the world off on others and instead take an active role in shaping the community that you want. Just don’t do it naively. Actually read the newspaper and history books.
Don’t draw an opinion after reading one Facebook post or opinion article. You are directly responsible for the state of things around you and far away from you as well. When we can recognize the reality of the situation we are in then we finally can envision a reality different than our own. My life is not predetermined and so you can bet that I will continue to decide how I engage with all that is around me.