By Donald Hanna
At my church, our worship services often lament the violence in the world – the conflict in Syria, the terrorist attacks that have captured the hearts and minds of the world recently, police violence highlighted by the Black Lives Matter movement, domestic abuse, and so on. It can seem that almost anywhere we turn our gaze, we find hostility, cruelty, and aggression in one form or another.
And culturally we accept the myth that violence is salvific. When there is turmoil, how quickly do we see our leaders calling for bombs to be dropped? In response to mass shootings, we see sales of guns in our country skyrocket. And in our media, we find the good guy doling out “justice” from the barrel of a gun. Even in children’s movies, the climax of the show is a punch or kick–or any more even the killing–of an enemy, that sets everything right.
Yet all of this runs so counter to loving one’s enemies, to forgiving 7X70 times, to turning the other cheek, to being a peacemaker. There is such a strong cultural predilection towards violence as an acceptable means to our desired ends. I believe that we, as Christians, need to be very intentional about peace and peacemaking.
We need to be very critical of this dominant cultural narrative – for so often violent solutions to problems are presented as “the only way” forward. I saw the quote once (and I went back to search for it but couldn’t find it or who said it), but it made the point that if humanity put a fraction of the energy and the creativity and the imagination into peacemaking as it did into acts of war and violence the world be a much more beautiful place. Some of the most imaginative people in this world are our children. And so it seems that as the church, as followers of the Prince of Peace, that we should be working with our children to encourage their imaginations to be used for peacemaking.
To this end we should be discussing people who have modeled peacemaking and hold them up as examples to be emulated – the Martin Luther Kings, the Gandhis, the Dorothy Days, the Mother Teresas. We ought work through ways to achieve conflict resolution without resorting to “might makes right.” We should equip them with the principles of non-violent speech and use it ourselves. We ought to establish routines and practices that foster inner peace so that that may then be brought out into the world. We ought to look for examples where peacemaking is happening in the world and celebrate it together. We ought to provide critique to the way that normative culture celebrates violence in its many forms.
In many ways this work is about creating a culture for our children that runs counter to many (perhaps most) of the messages of the world around us. But maybe, in all this, our children might be able to create a different culture in that world.