Lutheran Peace Fellowship

We are called to be peacemakers 
Statement of the Lutheran Peace Fellowship board, March 2002

News captions proclaim: "America Strikes Back" and "Bush Says War on Terror Will Take Years." Attacking the World Trade Center and bombing Afghanistan are similar in one regard: they both add to a pre-existing spiral of violence. And now, U.S. officials propose to feed the spiral of violence further by extending the war to Iraq, North Korea, Iran, and other countries. Retribution follows retribution, adding endlessly to the spiral.

If using retributive violence to try to counteract violence only causes the spiral to spin faster, what can possibly slow it down? Do we have any hope for regaining a sense of security in our daily lives?

As Christians, we know that we do not have to rely on human efforts alone to stem the tide of violence. We know a God who chooses life over death, who raised Jesus from the dead in the ultimate act against violence. When the Roman officials gave the spiral of violence one more spin, Jesus did not die on the cross to become a martyr whose disciples would seek revenge for his death. Rather, he was raised to life in order to show that God reigns beyond all death and violence. God counteracts violence and death in the world by upholding life.

Think about it: God did not seek revenge for the death of an innocent son.

When our illusions of safety secured by military power, wealth, stability, or goodness are shattered, we have two options. We can turn our vulnerability and fear into rage and revenge and attempt to re-secure our shaky sense of safety. Or we can turn to God who can transform our vulnerability into compassion. We can turn to God as Jesus did on the cross, where he was able to show compassion for those crucified next to him, for those who ordered his execution, and for those who stood by and let it happen.

When we admit our vulnerability and turn to God, we call Jesus our brother. And we find our connection is strengthened with those who live in fear and in danger of death - whether from hunger or as "collateral damage," whether from the anger of a spouse or a gunshot wound on the street. We call each sister and brother.

When we turn to God, we open ourselves to discover the creativity and discipline of active nonviolence as taught by Jesus, Gandhi, King, Day, and many others, we open ourselves to the power to interrupt the spiral of violence.

When we give ourselves to God we are freed to act in our families, churches, and public policies to address the roots of violence - oppression, discrimination, poverty, hunger, powerlessness.

When we place our trust in God, we find the courage to examine our complicity as citizens and as a nation in the violence all around us - as the world's leading arms seller, in our support for brutal dictators such as the Shah of Iran, Pinochet in Chile, Marcos in the Philippines; as the trainer of numerous groups committing terrorism like the Contras in Nicaragua or the mujahideen in Afghanistan; as the sup-porter of many authoritarian regimes like Saudi Arabia.…

From the place of God's love and compassion, we can conclude with Walter Wink, "The church's own witness should be understandable by the smallest child: we oppose violence in all its forms." (The Powers That Be, 141)

From that place of vulnerability and reliance on God, Christians can find the strength to speak out against the idolatry and illusion of revenge rather than justice as the basis of security; the idolatry and illusion of trying to secure our own safety through domination over other brothers and sisters.

Empowered by the grace of a compassionate and loving God, we can act.

We can renounce violence and domination in our personal lives and affirm the love of God for all people,

  • by seeking mutually beneficial outcomes for all in conflict rather than the defeat of the other,
  • by praying for those who have injured or wronged us, for those with whom we are in conflict.
  • by asking hard questions about where our clothing and food, cars and entertainment come from, confessing our own deep involvement in the domination system,

We can renounce violence and domination in our churches and communities and affirm the love of God for all people,

  • by ensuring that the insights and skills of nonviolence are taught in our schools, churches, and mass media; (e.g. the LPF forum series on Christian Peacemaking);
  • by refusing to participate in calling some groups of people "evil" and others "good."

We can renounce violence and domination in our nation and affirm the love of God for all people,

  • by supporting creative new insights and techniques in conflict education, college and seminary peace studies, peacebuilding efforts in war-torn countries, and in other ways, working to build a new "culture of peace."
  • by writing our president and members of congress about the idolatry of a national budget with more than 100 times as much money for weapons as for ending world hunger and poverty, key sources of conflict,
  • by signing the "Peace Pledge," making a commitment to take action if the US government expands this war to Iraq or other countries.

Trust in the LORD forever, for in the LORD GOD
you have an everlasting rock. Isaiah 26:4

When he was abused he did not return abuse, when
he suffered he did not threaten, but entrusted himself
to the one who judges justly. 1 Peter 2:23

See also: War on Terrorism, Budget Priorities, Path of Hope, Culture of Peace

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