I have heard much talk of peace over the past few months. As someone who seeks peace, any talk of peace should be comforting and encouraging that the world is moving in a positive direction. Rather than comforting and encouraging, I have found recent talk of peace to be downright scary.
I have found many people’s ideas of peace to be nothing more than disguises for violence. Over the past few months, there was a real push for military intervention in Syria. “We need to bomb them in order to make peace,” explained some of the hawkish politicians. I encountered a pastor with a gun on her hip the other day. When I asked her why she carried a gun, she replied, “I have a duty to God to help preserve peace and order.” I talked to a man recently about disciplining his child. “I have to hit him in order to teach him not to hit,” he explained. In a counseling situation, I talked to someone who was having a conflict with someone and she described that the only way to make peace was to bash the person into submission. I read recently about monks that flog themselves in order to find peace with God. I don’t think I want too much to do with that God. Over the last few months, I have consistently had conversations in which violence is disguised as peace.
It seems that we are a culture that has little conception of how violent we are. The movies we watch, the games we play, the way we handle conflict, and the way that violence pervades the whole of our lives has brought us to a place where we don’t understand what violence or peace is anymore. We seem to think that peace is about power and violence is the means to get us there. We fail to see the violence within much less the violence without.
Just last week, I was visiting my friend Will Speer on Texas’ Death Row. Will has committed heinous acts in his life and does not hide it. There is a tremendous amount of honesty in our relationship. On this visit, Will talked to me about the murder of his mom in 2007 at the hands of his stepfather. While on Texas’ Death Row, Will became a victim of murder. So are we to treat him as a murderer or a victim? Maybe we are all both? In the midst of our conversation, Will explained to me about how violence is a core part of who our society has created him to be. I immediately thought…doesn’t this describe the way that all of us were raised?
The ones who are quick to call Will Speer a monster are the same ones who buy their toddlers superhero underwear and ultimately teach their kids that fighting is the way to achieve peace. The ones who call out for the death of murderers often fail to examine the ways that their economic decisions are making them mass murders of workers around the world. The truth is we are all incredibly violent…perhaps it is time we start spending less time describing others as monsters and locate the monster in our self.
Make no mistake, there is a need for justice when wrongs are committed…but we must decide if we are pursuing justice in vengeance and violence or love. There is a big difference and the route we take will determine our own destiny. Will we be a people of peace and love or vengeance and violence? I pray that God guides us to a place where we never forget that peace and love does not include vengeance and violence.