Things That Make for Peace
In the middle of his royal welcome into Jerusalem Jesus wept over the city, saying, “If you, even you, had only recognized on this day the things that make for peace! But now they are hidden from your eyes” (Luke 19.42).
The things that make for peace go largely unrecognized today as well.
What follows is a resolution for the Free Methodist Church to consider at its upcoming General Conference in July 2015. It’s a draft and I offer it here for comment, debate, improvement, etc. It needs to take its final form soon, though, so be quick but not hasty with your suggestions.
A few thoughts about the intent and form may help you help me. First, the format is pretty strict as a resolution that moves from various “whereas-es” to some corresponding “be-it-resolved-s.” Second, the focus is on what an institution or organization (i.e., a small denomination) may be able to do in a unique way to recognize, adopt, and promote the things that make for peace. So the question, strategically, is this: What can this national organization do to promote peace? Finally, the Free Methodist Church is generally pretty conservative, both theologically and politically. Yes, that’s a generalization. But perhaps it will be useful as you help me point to where we want to be from where we actually are.
“Things That Make for Peace”
Related to Paragraph(s): 3331 (as well 3130, 3221, 3222, 3231, and 3412)
In regard to Scripture and the Church
- the New Testament does not teach or model Christians using violence in defense of justice or in protection of the vulnerable,
- the New Testament unequivocally values peace and prioritizes the peacemaking practices of Christians,
- the Church has historically maintained that violence is evil, though many have allowed that violence is necessary and therefore justifiable under certain conditions,
In regard to war
- the majority position in the Western Church is the just war (or justifiable war) theory,
- at the popular level there is widespread confusion or ignorance about the basic criteria that must be met for a war to be considered just,
- there is therefore a deficit in our moral reasoning because we do not understand the boundaries of historically defensible Christian stances on the use of violence, so there can be no reliance on the wisdom of the church or any major stream of Christian tradition,
- most of the reasoning in our culture centers on whether violence will be successful in securing our national interests, not on whether it is morally justifiable,
- our culture believes and our popular history reinforces the myth of redemptive violence,
- the conscientious objector option allows a citizen only two possibilities: moral opposition to all wars or availability to fight in all wars,
- soldiers return from war harmed both by the violence inflicted on them and the violence they inflicted on others,
In regard to domestic security
- police forces have become increasingly militarized in their tools and tactics,
- the changes over the last 20 years in use of force standards and police training methods are not widely understood by the public,
- the gulf between the standard operating procedure of a police force and the expectations of the community create conflicts that breed suspicion, mistrust, and enmity,
In regard to civil disobedience
- the Church is largely unpracticed in nonviolent methods of achieving social change,
- the Church is largely unacquainted with the barriers, injustices, and hopelessness that generate violent protests,
In regard to personal security
- at the popular level there is widespread assent to ideas that have not arisen out of careful consideration of Scripture and tradition; for example, any home invasion is justifiably met with lethal force, regardless of the intruder’s intent,
- over the last 30 years states have shifted dramatically in favor of granting permits for concealed carry of a weapon and an increasing number of citizens are now armed with deadly weapons but have received little to no guidance from their church on justifiable uses of violence.
Therefore, BE IT RESOLVED:
that this issue shall be referred to the Study Commission on Doctrine with these expected outcomes:
- an unequivocal statement that for Christians peace is the default or rule and that recourse to violence bears a steep burden of proof,
- a clarification of the boundaries of what scripturally and historically qualifies as a Christian perspective on peace and violence,
- a working set of criteria for the FMC to use in discerning whether a given war is justifiable,
- a structure and process for coming to a decision on whether a given war is justifiable,
- a strategy for lobbying the government to create a selective conscientious objector status,
- a means of granting selective conscientious objector status to members of the FMC,
- a plan for the pastoral care of soldiers (and other participants in violence) that leads to physical, emotional, and spiritual healing,
- an evaluation of modern policing practices and a plan to influence police training and tactics where appropriate,
- an outline of nonviolent practices for social change and a plan for where and how to implement them,
- a set of guidelines on the use of violence in personal life, and
- an encouragement to renounce violence and become a peacemaker in tangible and specific practices.