Peace on Earth

Jesus, in the song you wrote
The words are sticking in my throat
Peace on earth
Hear it every Christmas time
But hope and history won’t rhyme
So what’s it worth?
This peace on earth -U2

It is hard to hold out hope for peace.

We attend to peace like a river, mindful of where it is moving us to, and we yearn to have the peace that passes understanding down in our hearts to stay. We work to prepare the way for the Prince of Peace to come. But we feel the cognitive dissonance between the world we experience every day and the promised peace of our soon and coming King. “Jesus, in the song you wrote/ the words are sticking in my throat,” sings Bono and we feel with him the angst of a hope and history which just won’t rhyme. How can we hold out hope and sow peace in our wartorn land of discord?

Gerard Manley Hopkins poem Peace describes this same sense of elusiveness—our longing for promised Peace when we’ve only seen a peace, piecemeal and poor:

When will you ever, Peace, wild wooddove, shy wings shut,
Your round me roaming end, and under be my boughs?
When, when, Peace, will you, Peace? I’ll not play hypocrite
To own my heart: I yield you do come sometimes; but
That piecemeal peace is poor peace. What pure peace allows
Alarms of wars, the daunting wars, the death of it?

O surely, reaving Peace, my Lord should leave in lieu
Some good! And so he does leave Patience exquisite,
That plumes to Peace thereafter. And when Peace here does house
He comes with work to do, he does not come to coo,
He comes to brood and sit.

When, Peace, will you, Peace? How long, O Lord? What pure peace allows/ Alarms of wars, the daunting wars, the death of it? 

I had planned to write, today, ways we can welcome more of God’s shalom in our midst, but it struck me that such preachy platitudes would ring hollow if we didn’t stop and notice how hard it really is to hope for peace. We know far too much of grief and sorrow, death, terror and war, oppression and hate, we know far too little peace. It is hard to watch the news and not feel profoundly disillusioned and cynical. There is too much that is broken. How can such a world be made whole?

And yet we hope and wait, work and wonder. Peace is our hope but we hate the delay.  We’ve seen just enough to have some trust, but hope the way is not far off.  The opening lines of Bono’s song are:

Heaven on earth
We need it now
I’m sick of all of this
Hanging around
Sick of sorrow
Sick of pain
Sick of hearing again and again
That there’s gonna be
Peace on earth

We are sick of all we see and suffer. We long for your Kingdom come. How much longer? Prince of Peace, don’t drag your feet. 

Image source: Land art sculpture by Hein Waschefort, Maluti Mountains near Lesotho (Wikimedia Commons)

Sex and the Pastor Theologian: a book review

Todd Wilson and Gerald Hiestand are both pastors at Calvary Memorial Church in Oak Park, Illinois (Wilson is the senior pastor). They wrote a book together called The Pastor Theologian: Resurrecting an Ancient Vision(Zondervan, 2015). They bemoaned the division of disciplines between academic theology and pastoral ministry and urged a recovery  “pastor theologians” that were deeply engaged in theology and ecclesial concerns.

8988So, Wilson and Hiestand launched the Center for Pastoral Theologians, and the annual Center for Pastor Theologians conference. Their 2016 conference was on human sexuality. Hiestand and Wilson have edited and published their conference as Beauty, Order, and Mystery: A Christian Vision of Human Sexuality (IVP Academic, 2017). The conference and book are timely when you consider the way sexuality continues to dominate the news cycle and our cultural milieu.

Contributors to the conference included Beth Felker Jones, Wesley Hill, Richard Mouw, Daniel J Brendsel, Matthew Levering, Matthew Mason, Matthew Milliner, Matt O’Reilly , Amy Peeler, Jeremy Treats, Denny Burk, and Joel Willitts (and Wilson and Hiestand). The topics covered range from church history, contemporary culture, transgenderism and gender dysphoria, homosexuality, pornography, abuse and sexual brokenness, marriage, embodiment, selfies, and gender.

Theses essays are organized under three headings:  Part 1: A Theological Vision for Sexuality (chapters 1-5); Part 2: the Beauty and Brokenness of Sexuality (chapters 6-10); Part 3: Biblical and Historical Reflections on Gender and Sexuality (chapters 11-14). 

In their introduction, Hiestand and Wilson state, “The essays are diverse, as was our intention. Not all the contributors would agree on every issue in debates over human sexuality or sexual ethics. But this group would all share a belief in the historic Christian consensus on sexuality” (3).  This means, not just that contributors say ‘the Bible says it, I believe it, so that settles it’ but that each of the contributors seeks to engage and locate their position on sexuality within the historic Christian tradition. Wilson writes:

Far too many good Bible-believers are committed to Scripture but skeptical of tradition. As a result they operate with a bastardized view of the classic Protestant doctrine of Scripture—not sola Scriptura (“Scripture alone”) but nuda Scriptura (“Scripture in Isolation”). But this emaciated approach can’t stand its ground in the face of the twin challenges of pervasive pluralism on the one hand, and the widespread refashioning of moral intuitions on the other. (17)

Wilson (and his co-contributors), by anchoring themselves in both Bible and tradition, tend to regard any theological development as a ‘culturally construed’ neo-Pagan drift. So while the contributors are not the same, they also aren’t that different. Indeed, of the 14 contributors, all are cis-gender, all but Brendsel are white, all but Wesley Hill identify as heterosexual,  Jones and Peeler are the only females, Levering is the only non-evangelical, and four contributors are named Matthew. All of them hold a conservative position on marriage equality, though (as far as I can tell) Denny Burk was the only one who signed the Nashville Statement.

Pastorally though, there is some real gold here. Hill reflects on his experience as a gay celibate Christian and what it means for him and other gay Christians to give and receive love (chapter 3). Willitts describes the journey of healing from past sexual abuse (chapter 9). Mouw, speaks generously and with uncommon decency to pastoral concerns (chapter 5). Jones’ essay on embodiment also stands out as an important, affirmation of female and male bodies (chapter 2). Milliner’s essay on the icons of Sergius and Bacchus and the critical assessment of John’s Boswell’s Same Sex Unions in Pre Modern Europe was fascinating (chapter 13). On the whole these essays, and others in this volume demonstrate a real sensitivity to sexual brokenness and the wounds people carry. I don’t agree with every or all positions articulated here, but I appreciate that there is a real desire from these pastor-theologians to lead out of compassion.

Pastors and theologians are not typically sought after as experts on sex. However there is a lot of food for thought here about how to live faithfully to the Christian tradition while navigating  our culture (where sex is often disordered, commercialized, commodified and untethered from maritial faithfulness). I appreciate the ways these theologians have attempted to wrestle with issues that is both faithful to the Tradition and pastorally sensitive. I give this three stars.

Notice of material connection: I received a copy of this book from IVP Academic in exchange for my honest review

And Let it Begin With Me

The Advent call to “Prepare the way for the Lord” is a call to conversion (Luke 3:4-6). Anti-shalom marks our systems, structures, and institutions.  Injustice is business as usual. War and rumors of war haunt us. We are anxious people. We long for the peace of God to reign—in our hearts, in our lives, and in our world. But how should we live?

Let There Be Peace on Earth by Jill Jackson-Miller and Sy Miller describes how the call (and hope) for peace compels us to live differently:

Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me
Let There Be Peace on Earth
The peace that was meant to be

With God as our Father
Brothers all are we
Let me walk with my brother
In perfect harmony.

Let peace begin with me
Let this be the moment now.

With every step I take
Let this be my solemn vow
To take each moment and live
Each moment in peace eternally
Let there be peace on earth
And let it begin with me

The peace of God will one day reign on the earth, but to take up our role as Divine image-bearers means we live out God’s shalom now. This is how we welcome the Prince of Peace and allow the peace of Christ to reign in our hearts (Col. 3:15) But how do we do this?

First, we need to become a people of prayer. Paul’s exhortation to the Philippians is apt for these anxious times:

Do not be anxious about anything, but in every situation, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil. 4:6-7)

To pray is not to gloss over struggle, conflict, worry, and pain. It is to bring these things to God and invite His presence into them.

Committing to bringing everything anxious thought to God in prayer requires self-awareness about the things which are troubling us. This is easier if our anxiety is a troubling diagnosis or financial worry, but sometimes we have to probe our hearts a little more. We can’t present what we can’t name. When we are able to, our hopes and heartache laid bare before God, we provide the context for the peace of God to enter us more and more.

Secondly, in a world were darkness yet reigns, we are called to a stance of resistance. Peace is not just an inner-state, but a life which accords with the purposes of God for the world. This means as we follow Jesus, we learn to oppose anti-shalom in every form we encounter it.

Walter Wink notes three general responses to evil, ” (1) passivity, (2) violent opposition and (3) the third way of militant non-violence articulated by Jesus” (Jesus and Non-Violence, Fortress Press, 2003, 12). Jesus’ “third way” is not the middle path between revolution and passive fatalism. It is committing to shalom—well being and justice for alland understanding that ends and means are convertible terms (MLK, Gandhi). This is not passive, it is the revolution. Anti-Shalom may be our lived-reality but the kingdom of God grows, as wheat among tares now, even in the shadow of Empire. Resistance is fertile.

Let it begin with me, but it can’t end there. The Peace of God calls us to not only cast all our cares on Him but to allow His shalom to form us to respond to the anxiety and pain felt by our neighbors, our community, our country and our world.

(Image: Flower Thrower by Bansky)

 

 

Trinitarian Traces in Sciency Spaces: a ★★★★★ book review

Science and theology are two different disciplines and, allegedly, never the twain shall meet. The hard sciences lay their claim to objectivity, dealing with sense-data and the observable world. Theology, for its part, is relegated to the realm of the subjective and ethereal. But what if theology and science had more in common than it may appear? What if the Triune God has so imprinted reality with His Presence that the resonances between God and his creation create contexts for dialogue between science and theology? What if these distinct disciplines were more coinherent than conflicted?

9781532616846This is W. Ross Hastings’s argument in Echoes of Coinherence: Trinitarian Theology and Science Together.  Hastings is especially qualified to speak across these disciplines. He has a Ph.D. in organometallic chemistry from Queen’s University, Ontario, a Ph.D. in theology from the University of St. Andrews (under Alan Torrance!) and he is the Sangwoo Youtong Chee Associate Professor of Theology and Pastoral Theology at Regent College in Vancouver, Canada.  He has been a working scientist, a pastor, and a theologian. He brings these skills together as he probes how the perichoretic and coinherent Triune God and the incarnation of the Son have stamped humanity with the image of God and left traces of Triune coinherence on all creation.

Hastings details his aims as these:

I am first seeking to describe coinherence as a feature of the Divine life, acknowledged widely in the tradition of the church, both in the incarnation and within the Trinity. Second, I am seeking to support the further claim that coinherence can be seen to have echoes in creation. And third, I wish to propose that we may, because of the first two, predicate coinherence of the disciplines of theology and science. That is, I affirm that coinherence is part of the  Divine life (an ontological statement) can be said to have echoes in creation (a metaphysical statement ) and may be predicated further as a way to frame these two great disciplines of human knowledge (an epistemological statement)(5).

Thus, through the rest of the book, he explores the coinherent relationship between science and theology with special emphasis on the history of ideas, epistemology (how we know stuff), ontology and metaphysics (the nature of being).

Hastings argument unfolds in 8 chapters. In chapter 1, he lays out the aims and scope of this project and the idea of coinherence. In chapters 2, Hastings gives a short history of coinherence in the Theology/Science tradition, highlighting his conversation partners of Theologian scientists (scientists conversant with theology) and Scientist theologians (theologians conversant with the sciences. Chapter 3 describes the intertwining History of Ideas for both disciplines—the development of the sciences within a Christian context, its compatibility with theology during the Medieval-Renaissance, and the growing conflict and the fragmentation of the two disciplines from the late Middle Ages, on through the Enlightenment to today.

In chapter 4, Hastings tackles epistemology. He argues that though science and theology have been described as having two different ways of knowing (i.e. Scientists have evidence, Religious people have faith), both disciplines have a fideistic epistemology (taking on faith that their subject is knowable),  weigh evidence, and enter into a critical dialogue between the knower and their subject. Hastings traces this ‘Critical Realism’ in both the sciences and theology, concluding:

Critical realism is thus a philosophical system grounded in faith that the Revealer of truth in every realm is neither capricious nor obscurantist and yet also not controlling, in that he does not make things plain easily, for he has created persons in his own image who he expects to be inquisitive, and to explore, and to think and to worship. (120)

Chapters 5-7 describe the coinherent ontologies of science and theology. Whereas theologians take as their object the Triune God, the Creator has left his traces on His Creation. This allows for various resonances between the realm of theology and the world of science. the Trinity’s relationality, freedom, goodness, immensity, particularity and agency are written in Creation and God’s goodness, intelligibility and relationality are imprinted on humanity as God’s image bearers.

Chapter 8 draws these ontological and epistemological threads together:

The common doxological aim is what makes the sheer hard work in both worthwhile. It is the reality that the kingdom of God has already broken into history in Christ, which brings with it a doxological orientation in both theology and science. Christ has come to recapitulate old Adam’s orientation. (221)

In the interest of full disclosure, I was a teaching assistant for Ross (Hastings) once upon a time and he was one of my professors at Regent College. This is by no means an impartial review (if there is a such thing). Ross’s perspective and insights have stamped my own thinking in significant ways, particular his Trinitarian thought, ethics and missional theology. But I think the subject matter of this book is significant and worthwhile for our North American, post-Enlightenment context. I know good Christians who are suspicious of the sciences for the way materialist approaches undermine the idea faith. I also have scientist friends who have felt like the church undervalues and fails to appreciate their work. The time is ripe for a deeper dialogue between science and theology, not to blur the distinctions of each discipline—scientists are gonna science and theologians will theologize—but to mutually enrich our understanding of both God and Creation. Coinherence provides a good, missional model for a way forward.

Hastings describes this well:

The great opportunity of our times for thoughtful, missional Christians is to offer fresh articulations of the Christian doctrine of creation, grounded in the Trinity and the incarnation, which allow theology to be theology and science to be science yet which also affirm the mutuality and inter-enhancement of each. That is, accounts for theology and science which manifest the coinherence of the epistemology and the ontology of these disciplines. In an era when scientism is less and less credible, in which global warming threatens our existence, there is, I believe, a hearing for a world-affirming, science-embracing gospel. A gospel that offers a humble apologetic, a holistic and communal worldview, (or better, world-love), a gospel that is grounded in the triune Creator God, supremely transcendent and yet infinitely immanent; a gospel that leads to human flourishing and creational shalom. (93-94)

Vocationally, he also describes his specific hopes for those in the sciences:

My rather audacious hope is that this work may help scientists to value their work and to contextualize their science within a broader creative and even doxological framework this helping them and all humans to pursue their vocations in more satisfying and humanizing ways (15).

I give this five stars and highly recommend it. Hastings is a meaty thinker and this book will demand a slow read. Scientists who are believers will be encouraged in their calling as scientists. Thoughtful Christians will be more open  to seeing the way the Coinherent Divine nature marks not only the things of heaven but the very stuff of earth.  – ★★★★★

Notice of material connection: I received a copy of this book from Wipf & Stock in exchange for my honest review

“The King” and the Coming King of Kings

Thomas Dorsey wrote some of the greatest gospel songs of the 20th Century. One that gets special attention this time of year is There Will Be Peace in the Valley.  Here are the lyrics:

Oh well, I’m tired and so weary
But I must go alone
Till the lord comes and calls, calls me away, oh yes
Well the morning’s so bright
And the lamp is alight
And the night, night is as black as the sea, oh yes

There will be peace in the valley for me, someday
There will be peace in the valley for me, oh Lord I pray
There’ll be no sadness, no sorrow
No trouble, trouble I see
There will be peace in the valley for me, for me

Well the bear will be gentle
And the wolves will be tame
And the lion shall lay down by the lamb, oh yes
And the beasts from the wild
Shall be lit by a child
And I’ll be changed, changed from this creature that I am, oh yes
There will be peace in the valley for me, someday
There will be peace in the valley for me, oh Lord I pray
There’ll be no sadness, no sorrow
No trouble, trouble I see
There will be peace in the valley for me, for me

The version I remember best is Elvis Presley’s. As one of Elvis’s best-loved gospel hits, it is included on the B side of his Christmas album. So if you are like me, and you have a cache of Christmas CDs you haul out every year, you’ve heard it recently. Maybe as you read the words above, you heard them in Elvis’s voice and your upper lip curled up just a little.

I love this song. It inhabits this hopeful, future-oriented Advent space, a time when there will be no sadness and sorrow, and God himself will wipe every tear from our eyes (Rev. 21:4). Predators like bears, wolves, and lions will be tamed, a little child will light the world, we will all be changed (Isaiah 11:6-9, 1 Cor. 15:51). But if I could excise one word from Dorsey’s lyrics (and Elvis’s performance), I would get rid of the word “someday.” To me, that word is too passive, too pie-in-the-sky. We can’t just sit back and wait for a world we want. What difference does it make if we wax poetically about lions and lambs if we willfully participate in systems and structures that devour our neighbors?

The Advent season marks time before Christmas, it acknowledges that we have not yet arrived, that we should not be satisfied with what is, and it stokes hope for the coming of Christ when all the world will be set to rights.  But it is more than this. Advent calls us to respond. If not a come to Jesus moment, we are called to a Jesus is coming moment. We are called to be Shalom agents now and prepare the way for the Lord!

At Jesus first Advent, his cousin John preached a gospel of repentance. Luke 3:4-6 (cr. Isaiah 40) says:

“A voice of one calling in the wilderness,
‘Prepare the way for the Lord,
    make straight paths for him.
Every valley shall be filled in,
    every mountain and hill made low.
The crooked roads shall become straight,
    the rough ways smooth.
And all people will see God’s salvation.’”

If we believe this stuff, then the call isn’t for us to sit, wistfully dreaming of someday. Jesus is coming and things got to change. Someday is cold comfort to the hurting.

What can we do today, to alleviate inequity, suffering, pain? How can we make our crooked roads straight? How will the wounded, the wicked, the victims and victimizers all see God’s salvation? It is when we finally start living and acting in ways that are cognizant with the reign of the coming King of Kings.

A friend recently tweeted, “How are you complicit in creating the conditions you don’t want?” I can’t think of a more Advent-y question.

Image taken from Wikimedia Commons

 

Tantra JC, GRRR! a book review

This is an odd book for me to review. Generally speaking, when it comes to world-faith traditions, I draw water from my own well (Proverbs 5:15). I am a big believer in Christian particularity. Jesus was the unique Son of God, sent to save the world, because of God’s great love for us. That isn’t to say I think other faith traditions are wholly false. I have benefited from mindfulness practice, and some authors I respect (e.g. Thomas Merton, Richard Rohr, Cynthia Bourgeault, Dorothee Sölle) have drawn on the ‘perennial mystical tradition’ (Rohr’s term) and there is a such thing as fruitful interfaith-dialogues.
9781620555613_1 So in a spirit of equanimity, I decided to give Tantric Jesus a hearing (even if I regarded the premise as somewhat suspect). James Hughes Reho is an Episcopal Priest, with a Ph.D. in Chemistry, a yoga teacher, and a Tantra initiate. He contends that Jesus himself, and the early Christian community with him, taught a tantric spirituality. Reho notes that in the West, “Tantra often conjures up pictures of arcane mystical practices or acrobatic sexual escapades. In reality, Tantra is a philosophy of life, love, and being—grounded in practice—that can help us re-engage the deep and life-transforming truths of Christianity in a fresh way” (10). So Reho explores Tantra—its gods, sacred myths and practices—in order to discover resonances with the Christian tradition.

Reho’s exploration unfolds in two sections. In part 1, he explores he explores what he sees as the shared Christian, Tantric religious vision. He recapitulates ‘The Five Roots of Tantra’ into the ‘Five Roots of Christian Tantra.’ They are:

  1. The world is real and good.
  2. The Divine Feminine.
  3. The human person, embodied, is the divine temple.
  4. Spiritual practices are rooted in Eros and antinomian behaviors which point toward love and compassion rather than law and obligation.
  5. Both traditions advocate living relationships with a guru/teacher.

Let me say, in general, these five ‘roots’ seem like good things to me, but I felt a little lost in Reho’s descriptions of Tantra/Hindu theology.

In part 2, Rehu explores what Tantra has to teach Christians about spiritual practice. Specifically, he examines the prayer of the heart, the Jesus prayer, praying with icons, gazing at another person, sacred foot washing, and sacred sexual union.

Reho sees resonances between Christian Tantric practice and the Christian mystical tradition; however, the examples he cites, at least on the Christian theology side, would be at best a minority tradition. He cites the gospels alongside gnostic gospels (e.g. Thomas and Philip), Celtic spirituality, heretics like Pelagius, and cherry-picked quotes from Eastern Orthodox saints. So while he cites the Cappadocians to describe the concept of theosis and divinization in the Christian mystical tradition, I am fairly certain Tantra was not what Gregory of Nyssa had in mind.

Nevertheless, I appreciated some of the things Reho said. He challenges the gnostic hatred of embodiment that has cast a shadow over Western spirituality (even as he cites gnostics and Christian Neo-Platonists constantly). He takes Ander Nygren to task for his denigration of Eros as incompatible with Divine love (Christian love can be true without being devoid of self-interest). I also appreciated hearing some of Reho’s own mystical and spiritual journey and what practices he found personally nourishing. Part of this text is biographical. It describes practices and theology that Reho himself has found helpful.

But his highlighting of marginal, decontextualized voices, makes this a difficult book for me to recommend. I do not know enough about Tantra and Hinduism to know how faithful Reho is to that tradition (though I understand Tantra as a marginal theology within Hinduism). I do know Reho’s claims about Christianity aren’t really all that orthodox. In the end, I’ll give this two stars. I struggled with it, but I finished it. – ★★

. Notice of material connection: I received a copy of this book from SpeakEasy in exchange for my honest review.

A Peace that Passes All Understanding

And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:7)

-Apostle Paul

You keep using that word. I do not think it means what you think it means.

-Iñigo Montoya

Everyone says peace, peace when there is no peace. On the global scene, we broker our treaties and walk tenuously on days when tensions run high. Our national politics are marked by a strong partisan divide. Closer to home, violence erupts where it should not—at churches, concerts, and playgrounds. Prejudices affect public policy, marring our police forces and our justice system. We sign Christmas cards that say Peace on Earth, goodwill toward all people, but peace is not our lived reality. We keep using that word but I do not think it means what we think it means.  

Our understanding of peace evidences a lack of imagination. We understand peace to mean the cessation of war or conflict (or perhaps, a blissed-out tranquil state). The Hebrew concept of Shalom is far richer than just that. Certainly, it includes the idea of the end of war but it also describes a whole new world:

  • Shalom is health and prosperity, a profound experience of total well-being.
  • Shalom means to be complete, full, and whole. It describes life as ample, abounding, and brimming over. Everything just as it should be.
  • Shalom is a bountiful harvest. The locust and famine have not wasted the crops. There is more than enough to share with everyone.
  • Shalom is to live in a state of friendship with others.
  • Shalom means restoration and restitution. Repayment for the wrong we’ve done and all relational brokenness mended.
  • Shalom means justice, putting the vulnerable, the oppressed and the marginalized in your sphere of care.
  • Shalom is an open-hearted right relationship with yourself, with others, with Creation, and with God.

Underpinning the definition of shalom are some biblical pictures that envision peace: the Garden of Eden (Gen 2), the eschatological vision of the Hebrew Prophets (cf. Isaiah 2, 11), the Kingdom of God(see: Jesus), and the New Jerusalem (Rev 21-22).

We need to allow this vision of shalom to shape our hopes and vision for what peace may be if we are to speak and live as witnesses of another Kingdom. Too often, our public rhetoric of ‘keeping the peace’ is used in ways that are anti-shalom. 

Telling NFL players to stand up and respect the flag without addressing the reality of racial inequalities, and state-sponsored violence against black people, there is no shalom.

When we claim we are about ‘law and order’ and advocate policies that incarcerate minorities at higher rates and for less than what white people get slapped on the wrist for, there is no shalom.

When we are told we ought to support leaders who support policies that hurt the poor, the widowed, the orphaned and alien, there is no shalom.

When we ignore the cries of victims because our party’s agenda is too important, there is no shalom.

When we claim that social programming will bankrupt our country and we need to first be fiscally responsible if we want our society to function, we ignore commands and biblical exhortations to live open-handed lives toward the poor (Deut. 15:11).  There is no shalom.

When we deregulate environmental protections, poison waterways, pollute the air, and destroy the earth, we are not caring for creation. There is no shalom.

In a series of recent Facebook posts, Mark Van Steenwyk challenged the way  pacifism and calls for peace have been used by the powerful and privileged to oppress and silence the poor and marginalized:

Any anabaptist theology that isn’t re-baptized through liberation theology reinforces oppression.

Anabaptism, on its own, only makes sense as a religion of the oppressed. Just like the Gospels are unintelligible to the middle and owner classes apart from the experiences of the oppressed.

In other words: Any calls for pacifism, meekness, and simplicity that come insistently from the powerful are attempts to keep the oppressed docile and poor.

Nonviolence must be a tool of the oppressed in their struggle, with the aid and support of repentant allies. Otherwise, in the hands of the powerful it becomes an ideology of oppression.

To be clear: I’m a pacifist. But pacifism and nonviolence must be in service to liberation or they become a force for oppression. If you’re a pacifist that isn’t working alongside (and following the lead of) those who struggle for liberation, then your nonviolence is just the velvet pouch sheathing the hammer of oppression (from RadicalDiscipleship.net)

Children, who understand such things better than us, sing out, “I’ve got the peace-that-passes-understanding, down in my heart (where?), down in my heart to stay.”

Come Lord Jesus and

give to us your Spirit of Peace,

enliven our imagination 

that we may live out 

peace bigger than our 

understanding.

 

(photo source: Wikimedia Commons)