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Wednesday, August 28, 2013

Peace, peace, when there is no peace



The mural depicted here is from the Kansas State House in Topeka, and shows a raging, almost maniacal John Brown, the fiery abolitionist, with a Bible one hand, and a rifle in the other. The fuel for Brown’s violent rage was the institutionalized violence and injustice of slavery. Even for those who believe violence is a useful tool in the service of justice making, Brown engaged in violence in ways that were not rational, sometimes raiding (jayhawking) the farms of Missouri residents (the nearest slave state) who had no slaves.

Brown is a complex person, and while I don’t condone his violent choices, I admire his intense opposition to institutionalized violence. And while his raid on Harper’s Ferry was a tragic fiasco, his death by hanging was a catalyst in the coalescence of northern opposition to slavery. What is a Mennonite pastor to think about such a fellow?


My abolitionist and Underground Railroad activist ancestor, Quaker minister Thomas Frazier, likely would not have condoned Brown’s violence, but some of his fellow Iowa Quakers provided Brown with critical support. Frazier and other Quakers were quite willing to violate the Fugitive Slave Act, which got them in trouble with the law, but going into slave states and bringing freed slaves back across the border was another matter. Brown and other raiders would do so, and once slaves were across the border, Quaker Underground Railroaders were willing to help out. The relationship between the likes of John Brown and the likes of my great, great, great, great grandfather, were complex. While they disagreed on methods of confronting slavery, they shared abhorrence of that form of institutionalized violence. Those Quakers seemed aware that peace in the abstract was not peace at all.

Some of the most surprising conversations in my life were with those advocating an armed struggle against oppression in the Philippines. I say surprising because it seems like another life time. As a pacifist these discussions quickly focused on my position that armed struggle against oppression is wrong. Always. The return from my interlocutors was my pacifism is rooted in privilege and is a luxury, enjoyed  on my part by failing to confront the institutionalized social, economic and political violence against the poor of the Philippines, which is to say the majority of the people. Furthermore my place of privilege is sustained by violence. My pacifism is both disingenuous and hypocritical.

Those conversations do not change my conviction that a “refusal to bear the sword” is the faithful Christian ethic. But they do make me highly suspicious of peace in the abstract, of cheap peace, as if we are morally pure just by throwing the word around. Without a context, the word peace becomes not only weak, but dangerous, in that it can be used as a mask hiding greater and deeper violence than that which it claims to oppose, or build barriers to conversations which might increase understanding.


As long as peace remains nothing more than an abstract concept, it isn’t peace at all. As Jeremiah and Ezekiel would say, it amounts to shouting peace when there is no peace.

4 comments:

Phil Waite said...

For those of you interested, here is a link to a story that includes my Frazier relatives.

http://www.blackiowa.org/education/black-history-moments/the-slaves-of-ruell-daggs/

This was a well documented event, and I once stumbled across trial transcripts, where my UR activist kin are indicted under the Fugitive Slave Act. They were freed on technicality.

t.a.drescher said...

I think perhaps nonviolent peaceful responses are much more difficult and require much more courage and strength than I typically recognize. The knee-jerk anger response is easy, "feels" natural and almost always seems justified. I have yet to be given any proof that more violence leads to less violence.
It may seem less, but compared to peaceful responses, it is like "destroying" a dandelion by blowing up/off all of the seeds. I confess I also participate far too often in violence if even only in violent thoughts/words.
Perhaps I need to deliberately acknowledge my own daily violent responses, whether in thought, word or deed and at the same time, reclaim compassionate graceful responses which were actually bestowed on my soul at birth. I've restarted reading Nonviolent Communication and found this foreward to challenge me in this way. http://bit.ly/15uxRkW

Steve Finnell said...

WHAT DID THE FIRST CHRISTIANS BELIEVE?

THE CHURCH OF CHRIST HAD ITS BEGINNING ON THE DAY OF PENTECOST 33 A.D.. WHAT BELIEFS AND ACTIONS DID THE THREE THOUSAND CONVERTS TO CHRIST HAVE IN COMMON? DID GOD APPROVE OF EVOLVING BELIEFS, DIFFERENT REQUIREMENTS FOR SALVATION? IF THAT WERE TRUE, THEN WOULD IT NOT BE FOUND IN THE NEW TESTAMENT SCRIPTURES?

Acts 2:41 So then, those who received his word were baptized; and there were added about three thousand souls. Acts 2:47....And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved.

All three thousand believed the apostle Peter's message and were baptized in water. Then they were added to the Lord's church by the Lord Himself. The Lord did not add the unsaved to His church. They had to believe and be baptized in water prior to being added to the body of Christ.

1. Acts 2:22 Men of Israel, listen to these words: Jesus the Nazarene, a man attested to you by God with miracles and wonders and signs which God performed through Him in your midst, just as you yourselves know---

All three thousand believed Jesus was a miracle worker.

2. Acts 2:31-32 he looked ahead and spoke of the resurrection of the Christ, that He was neither abandoned to Hades, nor did His flesh suffer decay. 32 This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses.

All three thousand believed in the death, burial and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

3. Acts 2:36 Therefore let all the house of Israel know for certain that God has made him both Lord and Christ---this Jesus whom you crucified."

All three thousand believed that Jesus was Lord and Christ.

4. Acts 2:38 Peter said to them, "Repent, and each of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins; and you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

All three thousand repented in order to have sins forgiven. (repentance meant that they made the commitment to turn from their unbelief and sinful lifestyle and turn toward God).

All three thousand were baptized in water in order to have their sins forgiven.

All three thousand received the indwelling gift of the Holy Spirit after they believed, repented, and were baptized in water.

5. Acts 2:40 And with many other words he solemnly testified and kept on exhorting them, "Be saved from this perverse generation!"

All three thousand were saved after they believed Peter's message: They believed, repented, confessed, and were baptized in water. (Mark 16:16, John 3:16, Acts 3:19, Acts 2:38, Romans 10:9-10, Acts 8:35-38) THEN THEY WERE ADDED TO THE LORD'S CHURCH! (Acts 2:47)

WHAT THINGS DID PETER NOT PREACH AND WHAT THINGS DID THE THREE THOUSAND NOT BELIEVE.

1.Peter did not preach that men were saved by grace alone.

2.Peter did not preach that men were saved by faith only

3.Peter did not preach that God had selected a few to be saved and that all others would go to hell.

4. Peter did not preach that water baptism was not essential to salvation.

5. Peter did not preach that Jesus was just one of many Saviors.

6. Peter did not preach that once you were saved, that you could continue in a sinful lifestyle and still be saved.

7. Peter did not preach that God did not have the power to give us an inerrant translation of the Scriptures.

8. Peter did not preach that God would provide hundreds or thousands of different Christian denominations, and that they would teach different ways of being saved.

9. Peter did NOT preach that you had to speak in tongues as evidence that you were saved.

AS BELIEVERS IN CHRIST, MEN SHOULD USE THE BIBLE AS THEIR GUIDE FOR SALVATION. Looking to man-made creed books, Bible commentaries, denominational statements of faith, and church catechisms, is looking in all the wrong places for the absolute truth!

YOU ARE INVITED TO FOLLOW MY BLOG. http://steve-finnell.blogspot.com

Joseph Lehman said...

In Graves vs. Indiana, Judge Baker of the Elkhart Circuit Court in Goshen, assisted a runaway slave to avoid being returned to his owners. The local judicial officers ruled that the warrant from KY had been incorrectly signed by the JP, there, rather than the clerk of their court. Therefore, illegal. The IN S. Ct. ruled for the slaveholders, and the US Supreme Court affirmed. Often an outcome is procedurally based.