Primitive Christianity Revived, Again
During this week of celebration of International Peace Day, my heart is heavy.
"Let there be peace on earth, and let it begin with me"
What human being on this earth doesn't want this at some level of their existence? The concept is so simple. 1. Violence is NOT the way to peace. 2. There must be peace in me before it can BEGIN with me.
So how much time and effort do we spend seeking peace? How much time and effort do we spend examining our hearts for any trace of violence? If we want to have peace in our heart and soul, then it cannot coexist with violence.
Does our nation have a violent soul?
We know that our nation is nothing but the people that live within.
So do I as an individual have a violent soul?
Does our culture have a violent soul?
We know that our culture is nothing but the people that live within.
So do I as an individual have a violent soul?
What is the evidence? What are the fruits of our soul; individually and collectively?
My inner light has been leading me to really pay attention lately to both peace and violence; within my soul and in the world around me . . . leaving me with great concern.
But first, we must understand the deeper meaning of both peace and violence.
Francis Shaffer is a theologian that identified the driving force of our culture (our god) as "personal peace and affluence".
Peace is a much deeper concept than having no disturbances in our own personal atmosphere.
Peace is a much deeper concept than a cessation of conflict.
The Hebrew word, Shalom carries with it the spiritual, mental, emotional, and physical condition of health and wholeness, a right relationship to all things; ourselves, all people, the earth, the universe, a higher power.
Parker Palmer's definitions of violence from a Quaker perspective resonate deepest within me:
"Violence is not just about bombing or shooting or hitting people. Violence is any way we have of violating the integrity of the other. Racism and sexism are violence. Derogatory labeling of any sort constitutes violence. Rendering other people invisible or irrelevant is an act of violence. So is manipulating people towards our ends as if they were objects that existed only to serve our purposes."http://being.publicradio.org/programs/2009/rv-palmer/particulars.shtml
In the video below, he goes on the say that violence is violating the identity and integrity of the other, and that America is addicted to violence,
"America has pursued a violent course as we have pursued our self-interest.
I don't mean simply war as a solution to international problems.
I mean environmental degradation as a fix for consumer problems.
I mean incarceration as a fix for domestic problems.
I mean high-stakes testing in our schools as a fix for our need to pretend we are in charge of our public education; that we are 'fixing' it."
Here, Parker Palmer takes it a step deeper into my own heart and identifies a "fascism of the heart":
"I also failed to learn that I have within myself a certain 'fascism of the heart.' When the difference between you and me gets too great, when your version of what is good or true or beautiful becomes too threatening to mine, I will find some way to kill you. I won’t do it with a bullet or a gas chamber. But I will do it with a label, a dismissive name, any way of rendering you irrelevant to my life in order to reduce the tension between your view of reality and mine."http://www.aps.org/publications/apsnews/200707/backpage.cfm
As I am contemplating peace and violence in my heart and in the heart and soul of our society, I begin asking questions that I have not given myself permission to ask until recently. Questions about something that is at the heart of every individual and society: our values and beliefs about spirituality, religion, and the meaning and purpose of life. Why have I been blind to the fact that the religion I've followed all of my life has at its very core, violence? The very fact that I have to "be right" and "make wrong" the beliefs of others that disagree is an act of violence. I am violating the identity and integrity of others by the very nature of my beliefs.
Today, a friend of mine was telling me that a dear relative of hers was Buddhist. She remembers being told years ago, when she became a Christian, that she was denying and throwing away the faith of her family. Yesterday, a member of a church in my neighborhood told me that anyone that denies our Christian beliefs, "we are not to even invite them in our homes, or even eat with them." This afternoon, a new facebook friend had read one of my posts on violence and told me about a public discussion on religion between three different "experts". She commented on the violence throughout and at the heart of it. I often visit a local "free thinking" webpage that is made up of mostly atheists. They claim to take religion out of the picture and yet they end up with a sort of fundamentalist approach that sounds a lot like the extremes of Islam and of Christianity. Many of the comments on the page claim superior wisdom and dub all that disagree as stupid, mindless, and unthinking.
Why can't Christians learn to celebrate Jesus without being anti_______. Fill in the blank with Islamic or Obama or Bush or Republican or Democrat or ... or ... or ....
Why can't Islamic people celebrate Mohammed without being anti______. Christian or American or ...?
Why can't atheists be without a God and love their "science, reason, freedom of inquiry, and secular values" without being anti________. Religion or God or faith or ... or ...?
Why do we have to hate? Why do we have to "make wrong" in order to "be right"? Why do we even have to "be right". We all know that when we know something for sure, then all learning stops.
Why do we feel compelled to commit continual violence?
Why do we have to violate the identity and integrity of others?
Can't we just live and let live? Love without hate?
And let me ask this:
Can we love while hanging on to hatred???
Can we find peace while hanging on to violence???
"Let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth." (1 John 3:18)
"Peace I leave with you. My peace I give to you. Not as the world gives. Let not your heart be troubled nor let it be afraid." (Jesus)
"And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus." (Philippians 4:7)