In Romans, Paul speaks of a God of reconciliation, who makes friends of enemies. Principles of reconciliation and of the love of enemies have often been quarantined from the political realm in systems of political thought that prioritize the enemy-friend polarity. However, a politics of love for enemies and of reconciliation with a creation from which we have become alienated may never have been more urgent.
God’s peace is a peace founded on life, rather than death. On relationship, rather than enmity. On engaging in and accepting mutual hospitality, rather than building walls of division.
The psalmist calls us to the fear of the Lord, offering us the secret to its pursuit. Straightforward though it may be, the psalm’s challenge to avoid evil-speaking, deceit, and to depart from wickedness and pursue peace would have seismic effects for our political landscape were we to commit ourselves to it.
Psalm 85 speaks of the meeting of justice and peace in a kiss in God’s new order. While we often futilely pursue such a goal through our politics, in Scripture we see its fulfilment through the cross.
The Apostle Peter calls for the virtues of patience and peace in our waiting for the eschaton. At face value, these virtues might appear more congruent with an apolitical complacency. However, closer reflection reveals that they involve both the work of bringing peace and commitment to works of anticipation.
Three years before, Eleanor Bumpurs had been shot. A sixty-six year old black woman shot by a white police officer. Shot twice. With a shotgun. In her home. A case against the police officer wound through the courts in fits and starts. In 1987 the officer was acquitted. It was then, on the streets in front of the courthouse, that the press recorded for the first time the chant, “no justice, no peace.”
The myth of Captain America introduces us to a serious quandary. Can liberal democracy be de-coupled from violence or is it doomed to repeat old battles? For Christians the question is doubtless a complex one. The Church can doubtless find much in Rogers’s democratic creed to admire; his sense of self-sacrifice, his public spirit and sense of civic duty. There is something of the righteous pagan in the Captain America myth which should not be lightly dismissed.
This is the fourth, and final, post in a series that was kick-started last September with a short discussion of how the growing field of just intelligence theory might be overly influenced by jus contra bellum thinking, or what Tobias Winright has coined “the presumption against harm version of just war theory.” This particular variant of just war theory is defined at its core by a presumption against war or a presumption against the use of force.
In light of the two kingdoms doctrine and the separation of church and state, understanding the appropriate form of Christian prayer for and engagement with the political realities of our societies can be complex. In Jeremiah’s message to an exiled people, we find a pattern for prayer in a pluralistic context, a calling that identifies our primary task to be one of seeking the common good and welfare of our communities, rather than one of submission or conversion.