The Christian Peace Movement is AWOL
Remembering Who We Serve
I am sad to report that most of the followers of Christ have gone silent in the face of the US led proxy war with Russia in the Ukraine. Before detailing this atrocity, we should pause to remember who we serve and what He calls us to.
The call of Christ to peace is absolute. Jesus instructs us to love one another the way God loves us. He especially calls us to love our enemies. This must mean that at a minimum we are not to kill them. It really means that we are not to consider anyone an enemy but rather to remember that everyone in the world is a child of God and is loved by God as much as He loves you or me. John 3:16 makes quite clear what God’s attitude toward the world is.
I have discussed the nature of the Christian call to peace before. This link has many of the posts I have published making the case for Christian pacifism. I would especially point the reader to the post on the practicality of peace in achieving better results than war. In case you think all this lacks scholarly heft I will point you toward the work that I have cited in many of my posts and one of they key works which turned me around on this issue.
An examination of the texts as well as of our hearts will show us that the answer to who would Jesus kill or who would Jesus nuke or who would Jesus arm is no one…ever. The realization of this fact will send war justifiers into one or both of two claims to an exception to the clear pacifism of Jesus. These are the too high up exception and the too far away exception. The too high up exception is the claim that the pacifism of Jesus is for the heavenly places not down here in a fallen world. This is easily rejected simply by looking at the Lord’s Prayer. Jesus teaches us to pray that “thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven”. Jesus fully expects us to work for the inbreaking of God’s peace here on earth.
The too far away objection is the claim that the Jesus ethic is for long from now, perhaps when He comes again. In any event it is not for the here and now. This too is a facile objection. Every single call that Jesus makes on people is for right now. Andrew and his brother Simon Peter were called to put down their fishing nets right now and follow Jesus. James and John, also fishermen were also called immediately. They were called so immediately that poor Zebedee their father was left without any help. Then there is the man in Matthew 8:22 who is instructed to let his dead father molder out in the field and come follow Jesus now! The point is all of Scripture makes clear, even in the Old testament that God makes His claim on us right here and right now.
All of this, as well as the potential for WWIII and all the existential risks that entails should motivate the Christian community to seek an immediate ceasefire and a negotiated settlement of all outstanding issues. This means negotiating with war criminals (on both sides!) and achieving less than perfection in the settlement. This approach will stop the slaughter of innocents and dial down the threat of a nuclear war, which seems a minimal bar to clear in the love your enemies command. Let’s turn to the sad silence of the majority of Christians regarding this conflict.
Where Did Everyone Go?
The Vietnam era, and beyond saw a multitude of Christian peace activists. Notably Martin Luther King Jr., and Daniel Berrigan to name two. Where are the MLK’s today? I will offer a few guesse in a bit, but for know let’s document the sins of omission (and a few of commission). I will start the Hall of Shame with an examination of my own denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America (ELCA). It is not that the ELCA, or any denomination for that matter, has not directed prayers and resources to the victims of the Russian invasion. They have, and this is commendable. The ELCA has called for peace, but has made no explicit demand for an immediate ceasefire that I can find. In the blog section there are several related to peace, yet none mention Ukraine. This call for humanitarian aid, yet no ceasefire has been matched by the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod, a more conservative Lutheran denomination.
Another main Protestant group the Anglican Communion is clearly siding with Ukraine in the matter by echoing US/NATO talking points. One does not have to accept what Russia did as moral to at least attempt to view the situation from their perspective. Viewing the perspective of the other is a fundamental part of the peace Jesus calls us to.
The Baptists are not any better. I have shown what the “pastor” of MLK’s former church has done in full support of US warmongering policy in his blasphemous role as a US senator. As for other Baptist groups there is a drive for humanitarian assistance but no call to actually end the war.
Other mainline Protestant groups also offer humanitarian assistance and prayers but little call for the US to negotiate a settlement. The United Church of Christ in Canada response can be seen here. It is totally pro-Ukraine with no attempt at balance. The main UCC statement also is notably short on a call for a ceasefire. One can see their leanings by this picture next to the statement:
The Methodist response has also been tepid. They make no mention of a ceasefire, and I would note the Ukrainian colors in the picture. The Presbyterians call for diplomacy-but based on a Russian return to the 1991 borders, which is to say they want no diplomacy. I would note a ray of hopefrom a peace group within the Presbyterian community that seems to be more Christ centered in their advocacy.
The more fundamentalist sectors of the Christian community have, not surprisingly, been also tepid to awful in their response. Here is Robert Jeffress’ response-end times rhetoric and no demand for ceasefire. Here are a couple more awful takes, including some attempts to outright justify war in the name of Christ.
The Catholic church, as befitting a very large organization is of no clear mind. The Pope has taken a more pacifistic stance in his comments, and I commend him for that. On the other hand the Vatican felt compelled to walk back and “clarify” his comments. One of the more awful stances taken is that of the US Bishops who are explicitly calling for US support to continue.
We have not seen as timid a response to war, and the specter of global conflagration since the German Lutheran church rolled over for Hitler in 1933. The only reasons I can think of to explain this state of affairs is first, bad theology. There are many, and they may be well-intentioned, who think that war is somehow justifiable to the Christian conscience. Obviously, I think the weight of sound theology comes down on the side of pacifism, and I am willing to have that discussion anytime.
There is also a disturbing tendency by the Christian community to all to easily buy into imperial propaganda. There is little to differentiate the average Christian from the average citizen, and that is just shamefully sad. We should be less naïve than to automatically buy into imperial bullshit, especially since our Lord and Savior was murdered on trumped up Roman imperial bullshit. All I really know for sure is that far too many Christians find themselves of the world rather than simply in the world.
Where From Here?
Now that I have made the case that the Christian peace movement is all but dead, what can we do? First, call these churches out. That was the point of the open letter I posted to Senator “reverend” Raphael Warnock. Write letters, emails, take to social media, wherever your voice can be heard. A great place to start is your own church or denomination. See what it would take to get a statement of peace of behalf of the community you are involved with.
Second, evangelize peace wherever and with whomever you can. Share the Good News of Jesus the Christ and proclaim your allegiance to the Prince of Peace. Ask impertinent questions. Like whom would Jesus nuke and whom would Jesus arm? Explain why it is that Christ calls us to peace and how that can be a practical and effective solution to the world’s problems. In fact, it is the only really effective solution that there is.
Get involved in any peace movement you can. It does not matter if you stand next to an atheist in the march for peace. Show that nonbeliever your commitment to something larger than yourself and make it an evangelical moment at the same time. If someone shares your desire for peace do not worry about whatever else that person believes in, just work to stop the slaughter. That other person may have their own reasons for marching for peace, but you know that yours is your response to God’s gifts of grace upon grace.
Make the case for a diplomatic solution that considers the entirety of a very complex situation and the morally corrupt nature of everyone involved. The moral dubiousness makes the case that a negotiated settlement is the best we can hope for in a fallen world. In this you can feel confident that you have done the best you can to live as Christ taught us to live. Here we must stand, we can do no other.
Praise Be to God