We drove through a small town that has a quaint public square. A large war monument dominates – a cannon with plaques recording the names of town residents who died in far-away wars.
That’s all there was about the town’s history.
No mention of the town’s founders; or the first town doctor who visited sick children in the middle of the night; or those who started the town’s first school; or the wise and compassionate leaders who helped the town through its many challenging times.
War was remembered and monumentalized. Only war.
The town is typical of other small communities and big cities across our society and our world. There are many monuments to war. Wars and warriors get the pedestals and parades.
What about the makers of peace? Those who save countless lives by leading us away from conflict?
One of my favorite monuments to a maker of peace is in downtown Pittsburgh. Across the river from Fort Pitt – a place of war – is a statue of Mister Rogers.
Fred Rogers once said: “Peace means far more than the opposite of war.” It’s a spirit, a work, a way of life that we’re called to follow.
Our faith reminds us we’re called to be makers of peace. “Peace on Earth” is more than a feel-good verse; it’s the work given to us. It’s challenging and unpopular and counter-cultural work, but it’s our work.
Making peace means more than hoping and praying and wishing for peace. We must actively challenge attitudes about war and peace, reminding everyone we’re meant to love each other as siblings in God’s family instead of fighting one another out of self-interest.
Unpopular work, but it’s our work
War is the ultimate human failure: God’s children killing each other over land, religion, power, influence, wealth, supremacy. We destroy each other, what we’ve built together, and what God has created.
War must never be glamorized or romanticized. Instead, we need to lead our societies another way as makers and promoters of peace.
Blessed are the peacemakers, for they understand what it means to live and children of God.
Making peace involves building and nurturing mutually beneficial relationship, which is the heart of our faith traditions and our scriptures. We’re called to put selfishness aside and find ways to meet others’ needs for food, housing, healing, and spiritual uplift. We do this not only in our collective relationships but in our individual ones as well.
Making peace involves a willingness to do the hard and unpopular work of changing attitudes and showing people that we can and must get along. It entails working for justice for all God’s children.
We need peace on our pedestals.
Creating peace requires listening, honesty, trustworthiness, and justice. It’s about seeing everyone’s needs as equally important to my own – love your neighbor as yourself.
Peace on our pedestals
Again, this isn’t popular work – never has been, never will be. Many “religious” people have rejected the summons to be peacemakers and instead embraced the us-against-them warrior mentality that we see raging in our society right now.
Wars never just happen. They’re the accumulation of many smaller moments of injustice and selfishness. And they always result from demagogues riling people up for combat, insisting they must attack others before they themselves are attacked.
Demagogues excuse themselves from any actual sacrifices, increase their power in the fog of war, then put themselves on pedestals as great warriors to be emulated.
And war follows war follows war …
We’ll always have war – it’s who we are as humans, one of our original sins – but we can and must create conditions for a more just, humane, equitable, and peaceful world. We can and must create more peace in our individual lives.
This is the work given to us. It’s our calling. May we be makers of peace in how we live and interact with one another. May we work for the justice and mutuality that create conditions for all God’s children to live together as we’re meant.
(Image courtesy of firstname.lastname@example.org)