Wednesday, January 23, 2013


We claim personal spiritual peace, but do we believe relational and international peace is possible?

UNDERPINNINGS OF PEACE.  I repeatedly recommend four books that are breakthrough resources on practical peacemaking and nonviolence. They have nothing to do with protests, vigils, marches or sit-ins. They are more about the underpinnings of our thinking and processes that either contribute to or prevent peacemaking. The books are: 
The Anatomy of Peace - The Arbinger Institute; Leadership and Self-Deception - The Arbinger Institute; Nonviolent Communication - Marshal Rosenberg; The Different Drum - M. Scott Peck
These books are not particularly Christian. Three are not Christian at all. But neither are these resources anti-Christian or sub-Christian. Rather, they are insightful in their process and proven outcomes regarding how people can better understand conflict, respond to it redemptively, and live beyond age-old terms that tend to recycle past, self-defeating responses.

LIVING WHAT WE EXPERIENCE. Here's why I recommend these books--particularly to earnest Christians: I am convinced that many Christians have had a genuine personal spiritual experience of Christ’s peace (John 14:27; 16:33), but do not have the language, patterns, or principles by which to translate that personal experience into truly nonviolent living, peace-full relationships, and helpful leadership in community and international problem-solving

PEACE INSIDE AND OUT. It seems to me that many Christians claim to experience Christ's peace, but then follow teachers, read books, and give assent to religious teachers and political evangelists who promote sub-Christian perspectives on conflict and its resolution. This reflects an unnecessary dichotomy between "spiritual" peace and lived peace in relationships at all levels.  The resources I've recommend above, if read critically and in a robust dialogue with one's own faith, can significantly contribute to living out more fully the witness to peace which personal faith makes possible.

PARTLY NONVIOLENT? I made a commitment to try to live nonviolently in every possible dimension of my life several years ago--partly out of a response of faith to the words and witness of Jesus that I read in the Bible, partly out of my conviction that Christian theology points toward it, and partly because I am convinced that the way of violence--under whatever justification--is an insane and costly denial of all that is intended for us in life and in relationships near and far. I no longer buy the line that violence, though regrettable, is necessary as a way of resolving conflicts or moving toward peace at any level.

NOT JUST NOT VIOLENT. We may enjoy "peace with God" or "peace in my soul," but the language of violence and anger pervades much of our common conversations and common thinking. It still profoundly impacts the most basic relationships and problem-solving challenges. But it is no longer enough to just not use physical or verbal violence. Something greater is called for and pointed toward. 

CRITICAL CONNECTIONS. I want to bring nonviolence to fully into practice in my relationships to my spouse, children, friends, neighbors, community--especially when differences of opinion, tension and conflicts arise. Understanding and addressing violence and embracing the best practices and creative possibilities of nonviolence, community-building, and peacemaking are critical at this point in my life and, I believe, in the life of the world.  Maybe in yours, too?

John Franklin Hay
Indianapolis, Indiana, USA

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