On September 4th our lectionary remembers Paul Jones, Bishop and Peace Advocate, who in 1918 was forced to resign as Bishop of Utah because of his pacifism in the midst of World War I. Today most people recognize that war was a disaster in which 16 million died to accomplish nothing more that sowing the seeds of the next world slaughter in which 55 million died.
The drums of war are sounding again as ISIS (Islamic State in Iraq and Syria) grabs land and kills those who refuse to embrace its violent ideology. Most of the people they kill are Muslims, but we have been transfixed by the videos of the beheading of two American journalists.
We are repelled by these barbaric acts because it has been 267 years since our ancestors in England stopped beheading its enemies in public spectacles. (The last beheading in France was in 1977 and in Germany in 1949.)
I am glad nations in the Middle East along with America and her allies appear to be coming together to end ISIS’s reign of terror, but my hope goes deeper than the end of ISIS.
As a follower of Jesus Christ my hope is for the end of war.
Following the public execution of Jesus by the Roman Empire there has been a parade of his followers who have not fallen into the despair that believes war is eternal. They have prayed, as we do on page 815 of the Book of Common Prayer, that there will come a time in which “no sword is drawn but the sword of righteousness, no strength known but the strength of love”.
But isn’t this just sentimental foolishness?
No, it is the faith of the Church that believes the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ has disarmed “the powers and principalities of this present darkness”Ephesians 6:12 and equipped God’s people to create a non-violent world, starting with our own violent hearts.
Theologian and pacifist Stanley Hauerwas, who is also a member of Holy Family Episcopal Church in Chapel Hill, N.C., invites us to join this parade.
“We have no illusions that our call for the abolition of war will bring an immediate or even quick end to the massacres called war…. This Appeal…wishes to draw all Christians into a serious conversation about the Christian and moral acceptability of war and indeed to draw all concerned humans into the examination and development of alternatives to war.”
He then reminds us of a miracle from our past:
“It was once assumed that slavery was simply part of ‘the natural order’. Those calling for slavery’s abolition were thought to be foolish utopian dreamers. We are well aware that slavery still exists in multiple disguises, but no one thinks aloud that slavery can be justified or that public profit can be made from it…. Let the 21st century be for war what the 19th was for slavery, the era of abolition, and let Christians give the leadership necessary in achieving that.” Virginia Theological Seminary Journal Summer 2014, page 48.
Peace in Christ,