Sunday, August 28, 2005

PEACEMAKING & THE CHURCH

HAUERWAS’ REFLECTION. I excerpt this from a piece called “Peacemaking” in a collection of essays by Stanley Hauerwas titled Christian Existence Today (Brazos Press, 2001). Hauerwas is considered by many the most important American theologian today.

WITHIN OUR HOUSE. “Peacemaking among Christians…is not simply one activity among others but rather is the very form of the church insofar as the church is the form of the one who ‘is our peace.’ Peacemaking is the form of our relations in the church as we seek to be in unity with one another. Such unity is not that built on shallow optimism that we can get along if we respect one another’s differences. Rather, it is a unity that profoundly acknowledges our differences because we have learned that those differences are not accidental to our being a truthful people--even when they require us to confront one another as those who have wronged us.”

CONFRONT SHAM PEACE. “Regarding those outside the church, first, I think we must say that it is the task of the church to confront and challenge the false peace of the world which is too often built more on power than truth. To challenge the world’s sense of peace may well be dangerous, because often when sham peace is exposed it threatens to become violent. The church, however, cannot be less truthful with the world than it is expected to be with itself. If we are less truthful we have not peace to offer to the world.”

THE HABIT OF PEACE. "Second, Christians are prohibited from ever despairing of the peace possible in the world. We know that as God’s creatures we are not naturally violent nor are our institutions unavoidably violent. As God’s people we have been created for peace. Rather, what we must do is to help the world find the habits of peace whose absence so often makes violence seem like the only alternative. Peacemaking as a virtue is an act of imagination built on long habits of the resolution of differences.”

LACK OF IMAGINATION. “The great problem in the world is that our imagination has been stilled, since it has not made a practice of confronting wrongs so that violence might be avoided. In truth, we must say that the church has too often failed the world by its failure to witness in our own life the kind of conflict necessary to be a community of peace. Without an example of peacemaking community, the world has no alternative but to use violence as a means to settle disputes.”

CONFRONT WITH RECONCILIATION. “Peacemaking is not a passive response to violence; rather, it is an active way to resist injustice by confronting the wrongdoer with the offer of reconciliation. Such reconciliation is not cheap, however, since no reconciliation is possible unless the wrong is confronted and acknowledged.”

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