An blog by a member of the Catholic peace movement, Pax Christi, to explore the nexus between contemplation and resistance. "The Christian must discover in contemplation, and in the giving of his life, those symbolic actions which will ignite the people's faith to resist injustice with their whole lives, lives coming together as a united force of truth and thus releasing the liberating power of the God within them." - James Douglass, Contemplation and Resistance.

Friday, May 09, 2008

Embrace the Biblical Vision of Shalom



"The richness of the biblical vision of peace is conveyed in the Hebrew word 'shalom'. Shalom means right relationships in every area -- with God, with neighbor, and with the earth. Leviticus 26:3-6 describes the comprehensive shalom which God will give to those who walk in obedient relationship to God. The earth will yield rich harvests, wild animals will not ravage the countryside, and the sword will rest. Shalom means not only the absence of war but also a land flowing with milk and honey. It also includes just economic relationships with the neighbor. It means the fair division of land so that all families can earn their own way. It means the Jubilee and sabbatical release of debts so that great extremes of wealth and poverty do not develop among God's people. The result of such justice, Isaiah says, is peace (32:16-17). And the psalmist reminds us that God desires that 'justice and peace will kiss each other' (Psalm 85:10). If we try to separate justice and peace, we tear asunder what God has joined together." - Ron Sider, "God's People Reconciling"

The ANZAC Ploughshares movement recently released the following statment: "This morning, 30 April 2008, we entered the Waihopai Spy Base near Blenheim.

Our group, including a Dominican Priest, temporarily closed the base by padlocking the gates and proceeded to deflate one of the large domes covering two satellite dishes.

At 6am we cut through three security fences surrounding the domes - these are armed with razor wire, infrared motion sensors and a high voltage electrified fence.

Once inside we used sickles to cut one of the two 30-metre white domes, built a shrine and knelt in prayer to remember the people killed by United States military activity...

We are responding to the Bush administration’s admission that intelligence gathering is the most important tool in the so-called War on Terror. This war will have no end until citizens of the world refuse to let it continue. The ECHELON spy network including Waihopai, is an important part of the US government’s global spy network and we have come in the name of the Prince of Peace to close it down." - ANZAC PLOUGHSHARES DEFLATE AND UNMASK WAIHOPAI, Jonah House

The vision of shalom must be acted on by Christians, not merely prayed about. The ANZAC Waihopai Ploughshares members have carried out the gospel imperative "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." - Matt 5:9. They have made the living the inner transformation spoken about by Paul in Romans. "In terms of the Gospel, the history man's liberation from injustice is an outward aspect of the inward growth of man into God. Liberation is the consequence of God's explosion of love in history, made visible in the cross of Jesus of Nazareth. Liberation is the political expression of humanity's transformation in love. It becomes possible whenever man turns from the will to power and instead acknowledges in his depths the power of Love." - James W. Douglass, "Resistance and Contemplation"

When we act in this way, we become the power of God, not by shouting in the streets, but by living kingdom values in the ambiguous risk of the present. We bear witness to the futility of war, its waste of resources, its unavoidable injustice, to the "inherent powerlessness of matter at its most powerful to resolve the injustices of man's spirit." The cynical materialism which rots the heart of "just war" Christianity sets aside the power of the Holy Spirit, the power of truth and justice to transform hearts. We cannot conquer evil with bombs no matter how smart - indeed, faith in such bombs is at the heart of evil. "The dead end of war forces the Christian conscience into a confrontation with the issue of war itself, and into a growing recognition of that gap between the intention of peace and the execution of the sword which in the light of the Gospel reduces the notion of a just war to legalized fratricide. To a Christian the most embarrassing fact about the just-war doctrine, yet one which even saints have glossed over, is its apparent opposition to the cross of Christ, which Gandhi perceived as the essence of non-violence."

"They shall beat their swords into ploughshares, their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift sword against nation; and there shall be no more training for war." - Isaiah 2:4

In the early days of the faith, martyrs laid down their lives, often prosperous ones, to bear witness the Lordship of Christ in opposition to institutionalized injustice as practiced by the Roman Empire. Today, once again, some of us are called to lay down our lives, "...we must not only abandon mistaken ideas and embrace the full biblical conception of shalom. One more thing is needed. We must take up our cross and follow Jesus to Golgotha. We must be prepared to die by the thousands. Those who have believed in peace through the sword have not hesitated to die. Proudly, courageously, they gave their lives. Again and again, they sacrificed bright futures to the tragic illusion that one more righteous crusade would bring peace in their time. For their loved ones, for justice, and for peace, they have laid down their lives by the millions...

What would happen if we in the Christian church developed a new nonviolent peacekeeping force of 100,000 persons ready to move into violent conflicts and stand peacefully between warring parties in Central America, Northern Ireland, Poland, Southern Africa, the Middle East, and Afghanistan? Frequently we would get killed by the thousands. But everyone assumes that for the sake of peace it is moral and just for soldiers to get killed by the hundreds of thousands, even millions. Do we not have as much courage and faith as soldiers?" - Ron Sider, "God's People Reconciling"

"Jesus vicarious death for sinful enemies of God is the foundation of our commitment to nonviolence. The incarnate one knew that God was loving and merciful even toward sinful enemies. That's why he associated with sinners, forgave their sins, and completed his mission by dying for them on the cross. And it was precisely the same understanding of God that prompted him to command his followers to love their enemies. We as God's children are to imitate the loving characteristics of our heavenly God who rains mercifully on the just and the unjust. That's why we should love our enemies. The vicarious cross of Christ is the fullest expression of the character of God. At the cross God suffered for sinners in the person of the incarnate Son. We will never understand all the mystery there. But it's precisely because the one hanging limp on the middle cross was the word who became flesh that we know two interrelated things. First, that a just God mercifully accepts us sinful enemies just as we are. And second, that God wants us to go and treat our enemies exactly the same way. What a fantastic fulfillment of the messianic promise of shalom. Jesus did bring right relationships -- both with God and with neighbor. In fact, he created a new community of shalom, a reconciled and reconciling people. As Ephesians 2 shows, peace with God through the cross demolishes hostile divisions among all those who stand together under God's unmerited forgiveness. Women and slaves became persons. Jews accepted Gentiles. Rich and poor shared their economic abundance. So visibly different was this new community of shalom that onlookers could only exclaim: 'Behold how they love one another'. Their common life validated their gospel of peace." - Ron Sider, "God's People Reconciling"

"There is finally only one question: Do we believe Jesus enough to pay the price of following him? Do you? Do I?" - Ron Sider

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