About 1,960 years ago, The Gospel of Matthew was penned, offering collections of the words and works of Jesus of Nazareth. Central to all the teachings presented are the Beatitudes found in Chapter 5. They constitute foundational dispositions and disciplines for followers of Jesus the Christ. One of these pithy and profound sayings is found in Matthew 5:9: “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.” The “blessed” (happy, to be congratulated, under divine favor) actively pursue peace (concord, harmony, end of conflict, enemies becoming friends).
This peacemaking includes personal conflicts, peace among contentious groups, warring nations, and rival powers. Jesus was building on the Wisdom traditions of Israel calling the faithful to, “seek peace and pursue it.” (Psalm 34:14) and the Apostle Paul would highlight both the individual and relational facets of peace with God and among humankind (Romans 5:1; Galatians 5:22; Colossians 3:16). Jesus’s words have inspired intercultural and interracial harmony, as well as reconciliation movements throughout history. The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in the 1950s and 1960s, and President Nelson Mandela in the 1990s are examples of peacemakers bringing justice and calm to intense struggles.
In our contentious public square, peacemaking is needed more than ever. The agitation propaganda, apocalyptic hyperbole, outright anger, and egregious personal insults are not fostering concord and harmony! Why is it so hard for people of conscience to ignore the reactive emotionalism and forge principled compromises and offer proximate justice? The answers are complex, but we can unearth the unspoken absolutes that create the conditions of contention. Underneath all the “be a good person” and “we ae all one” and “be kind” sayings are pillars of post-modern anarchy and subjectivism that make consensus hard. Here are a few of these new “absolutes”
- Knowledge is not objective, but subjective. Pursuing the truth of a matter is now replaced by “my truth.” Even the words, “fact(s)” and “objectivity” are considered oppressive and racist.
- The human person is now a malleable creation of the autonomous self, not an identity to cultivate and refine as a human being who is male or female. Gender anarchy is a deliberate subversion of the divine image and everyone is now their own god, manufacturing new narratives of victimhood and pseudo-liberation. Of course, anyone affirming the commonsense view that all humankind is one race (with many ethnicities, of course) with binary female and male characteristics is ignorant at best and evil at worst.
These crises of knowledge (epistemology) and human identity (anthropology) make peacemaking quite challenging. Part of peaceful relations is living civilly with our deepest differences, desiring for all freedom of conscience and opportunity to flourish. But the purveyors of the aforementioned axioms purposefully cultivate conflict so they can rage against the machine forever, instead of offering principles and pathways for a preferred future. There are two more unspoken absolutes that govern this grievance culture:
- Morality is subjective and traditional religions are the enemy of human freedom. Marxist ideology aims for a “new person” free from economic and spiritual history with the state in control of every detail of life. One set of absolutes is now replaced with “liberation” through class struggle…and history tells us this is disastrous!
- History must be shaped to promote political agendas, regardless of the tapestry of narratives and the beauty and brokenness of humankind in all cultures and all eras. “Presentism” is the fashionable ideology of making today’s wokeism the lens by which all people at all times are evaluated.
Is there a way forward? Yes! Peacemaking requires values and virtues shared by diverse groups. People of conscience and common sense must affirm that pursuing the truth is noble and possible. We must allow science to speak loudly about the DNA of human identity, without imposing cultural idols. We must affirm that there are moral standards we can agree on. And we must learn all historical narratives and allow them to inform our decisions. I pray we will find the courage and wisdom for peacemaking rooted in enduring principles.
Learning thoughtfulness amidst the overwhelming data around us is challenging. In our desires for peace and justice, we must refine our critical thinking capacities and recognize what is timeless truth and what are timely opinions.
Here are some differences that make a difference:
Legitimate outrage about racism vs. anarchy and destruction.
Repairing historic, systemic injustices vs. calls for ending the family and imposing Marxism.
Repentance of prejudices of class, gender, and race vs. hatred for anyone with traditional values.
Passionate, principled debate vs. a cancel culture of personal destruction.
Building a world with true toleration vs. fear of violence.
Serious journalistic inquiry and allowing real evidence to further investigation vs. repetition of talking points and allegations.
Repairing our environment vs. alarmism cloaking wealth redistribution.
Accepting history as a tapestry of beautiful and broken narratives vs. cherry picking for agendas.
Treating every person with dignity and respect and respecting cultural diversity vs. blanket categorizations and generalizations.
Freedom of conscience allowing us to bring our best selves to the public square vs. privatizing any moral and religious convictions.
Let’s help the world be more thoughtful.
Peace among nations is a noble goal worth pursuing. It is also impossible without the other facets of peace being in place. Treaties are mere scraps of paper without transformation of hearts and minds. As we pray for our leaders and for concord among all cultures, here are some pathways to peace essential for human flourishing:
Personal peace with God and oneself. Conflicted, guilty and wounded hearts are underneath so much pathological activity and strife. This peace comes when individuals are reconciled to God and with their own pasts.
Peace among families. In 1967, Neil Diamond wrote and recorded a powerful song, Husbands and Wives, containing these words, “It’s my belief/pride is the chief/cause of the decline /in the numbers of husbands and wives.” It is time for spouses to decide ahead of time that they will remain faithful in body and spirt to their partners and their children.
Peace within and among churches. The local church is Jesus’ Plan A for his mission and the hope of the world…and all too often a place of discord and power struggles. May the faith, hope and love of the Gospel bring humility and mutual respect among all members.
Peace among diverse classes and cultures, educational backgrounds and ethnicities. Global ideals are only as strong as their local applications. When we make friends across classes and cultures and work for the common good, there is a ripple effect that becomes influential across the street and around the world.
And the key to all these facets of peace? A decision on the apart of at least 2 people to think of God’s glory and the good of others before themselves. In other words, letting love and humility, courage and wisdom win out over ambition and ego.
May this Advent find all of us at peace with Christ and fostering peace in our families and neighborhoods. We do not need the State house, the Beltway or the UN to lead the way – it begins in our hearts and homes.
Critical thinking is not a critical spirit.
Evaluating ideas is not judging people. Please, let’s grow up and think as adults. Agree or disagree with ideas and policies instead of lapsing into labeling and libeling.
To all defenders and haters of Presidents Obama and Trump:
I challenge you to make friends that differ and really evaluate what is said and done.
I was not a fan of the previous President and have serious concerns about our current leadership. I am praying, learning and above all working for genuine peace, justice and reconciliation.
I affirm for all others the rights I desire for myself. This includes self-critique, efforts to reform institutions I serve and the necessity of evaluating other applications of various faiths and philosophies.
Let’s stop trying to silence our philosophical opponents and have dialogue.
I challenge every public college administration to stop capitulating to political correctness and let all (peaceful) sides of issues be heard.
I challenge conservatives to confront historical and institutional injustice as well as individual iniquity.
I challenge progressives to assess honestly the issues of economics and liberty of conscience and stop defending perpetrators of evil as victims.
To all women and men of conscience I offer the hope that while we debate our deepest differences we can go and do good for the world together.
I am weeping over the historical and systemic injustices still rampant in our land.
As a citizen grateful for first responders and law enforcement, I am weeping for families left desolate.
I am weeping bitter tears over the extremists that gain from inflamed tensions while people of conscience of all colors and classes seek some way forward.
Since the loss of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King and the polarization of both political parties, we have lost the moral and spiritual center that grounds peace, reconciliation and shalom.
There is hope: authentic, deep, moral and spiritual awakening rooted in humility and sacrificial love.
There is hope: when we begin with the infinite value of every person and the dignity and equality that flow from this conviction.
There is hope: when we desire peace for our posterity over the passions of this moment.
Weeping and hopeful today.