Wednesday, September 27, 2017

Three Kinds of Peace

Nick Lowe’s song (What’s So Funny ’Bout) Peace, Love and Understanding? remains a staple in Elvis Costello’s live show more than forty years after Lowe penned it. Its simplicity and straightforwardness stand in sharp contrast to Costello’s ornate verbiage and characteristic cynicism, and yet the Lowe song often gets the strongest reaction of anything Costello performs. Why not? I mean, who could rightly disagree with the sentiment?

John Lennon famously urged us to Give Peace a Chance. If anyone suggested we Give War a Chance by way of response, it never got much radio airplay. There are times when men find compelling reasons to fight, but peace is usually preferable to bloodshed and death. Everyone agrees about that.

But peace means different things to different people.

Peace Sign of the Times

“Peace” was the cry of ’60s counterculture, but if I recall, it was often more lethargic, half-baked sloganeering than rebellious angst — though there was plenty of angst too. And the outcry was not simply for an alternative to war. Yes, there was widespread opposition to U.S. involvement in Vietnam, but there was a more general sense in which “peace” meant something like “leave me alone to redefine my existence on my own terms”. Dropping out and disengaging from society became the thing to do.

Peter Lewis of the Daily Mail quotes author Jenny Diski on the ’60s experience:
“ ‘We didn’t do recreation. Well, we didn’t do work. We entered the world hardly at all. It seemed ridiculous not to choose to be stoned.’

The object was to find an alternative, better way of being alive.”
The Sixties are gone, but many in our society are still defining peace in similar terms: “Peace” to them means “don’t judge me” and “don’t challenge my opinion; it’s just as valid as any other”. For the millennial generation, it means “I refuse to engage with the world”.

It is a state of being defined by the absence of outside interference rather than by any positive quality.

The Other Side of the Coin

The opposite of this lack of interest and disengagement is … well, Islam. Muslims are not dropping out and disengaging; they’re cropping up in the news all over the world and they are very engaged indeed. We’ve all seen and read about it recently, and it is clear the ‘followers of the prophet’ are having no problem delivering their message.

But as hard as it may be to believe the old saw about Islam being a “religion of peace” in the face of current circumstances, to the Muslim peace is (at least allegedly) what it’s all about. That’s assuming you define “peace” the way Muslim scholars define it:
“Jihad is not inhumane, despite its necessary violence and bloodshed, its ultimate desire is peace which is protected and enhanced by the rule of law.”
— Ibrahim Sulaiman

“The Holy war as it is known in Islamic jurisprudence is basically an offensive war, and it is the duty of all Muslims of every age … because our prophet Muhammad said that he is ordered by Allah to fight all people until they say ‘No God but Allah,’ and he is his messenger. It is meaningless to talk about the holy war as only defensive, otherwise, what did the prophet mean when he said, ‘from now on even if they don’t invade you, you must invade them.’ ”
— Shaykh Muhammad Sa`id Ramadan al-Buti’s
Got it? Peace only comes (and the jihad only ends) when we say “No God but Allah”. The ultimate objective of Islam, at least according to these scholars, is indeed a sort of peace, but a peace that is imposed by the more powerful force; submission as the alternative to jihad. And the end justifies the means, you see. So in the minds of those who engage in it, jihad is not inhumane because its goal is peace.

Obviously this does not represent the view of every Muslim any more than Calvinism represents the view of every Christian. It is only one interpretation of their Qur’an, though it is one that appears to be widely held. Interestingly, since increasing attention has been drawn to the connection in Muslim thought between peace and forced submission, many Islamic scholars have begun to assert that the submission required by Islam is of the voluntary kind.

Regardless, the attacks occurring nearly everywhere demonstrate that the more aggressive interpretation of the Qur’an represents the view of untold millions.

Another Kind of Peace

But there is another sort of peace; one that means neither “leave me alone” nor “I refuse to leave you alone”. Its power comes from God himself because peace is his very nature. It is his perpetual preference and, we might say, his way of doing business:
“For God is not a God of disorder but of peace.”
Unlike the Islamic understanding of peace, God’s peace does not require disorder to bring it about. In fact, it is the opposite of disorder. And because our Father is a God of peace, his children are called to demonstrate that nature:
“God has called you to peace.”
This specific reference has to do with peace in the family, but I think it reflects a general principle too. Too many of us expend great effort putting on appearances for public consumption when inside our homes we allow Self off its leash just a little. But if God’s peace is intended to be reflected even in our closest relationships, then surely it will also be evident in the public square.

We are called to peace by the Father but it is upon the promises made by the Son and the enabling of the Holy Spirit that Christian peace is really based. The Lord Jesus tells his disciples about the Comforter who would come in his place when he returns to the Father, and finishes with this:
“I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace.”
These promises give us the confidence to take our concerns to God in prayer and present them to him instead of carrying them around with us.

In practice this is easier said than done. There is a certain discipline to be acquired in leaving our cares behind. I have often “committed” something to the Lord, opened my eyes and continued to fret about it immediately thereafter. I suspect the key is found in Paul’s words to the Philippians:
“Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything, by prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, present your requests to God. And the peace of God, which transcends all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.”
The relevant phrase here is “in everything”. When I find myself mentally revisiting my concerns, it is time to return to the presence of God. Something more needs to be said or more likely heard. Sometimes I do this two or three times before genuinely letting go of a problem, but I am learning.

Bringing in Universal Peace

The “peace” sought by our generation is deficient in many ways, but one of them is that it requires that others “give it a chance”. We cannot be left to our own preferences and lifestyle choices if others refuse to allow it. We can “imagine no religion” all day and all night, but the news cycle is evidence that certain provocations will not go away no matter how fondly we wish they would.

The “peace” of Islam is equally false and faulty, because it requires others to submit in order that it be realized. Islamic imperialism and its ongoing quest for Dar al-Salam (the “House of Peace”) is beginning its Third Wave and is destined to be thwarted just as the first two waves of Islamic aggression failed to deliver a universal “peace”.

The peace of God, however, does not succeed or fail on the basis of the actions of others. It is able to do its work in every conceivable situation. Paul tells the Thessalonians:
“Now may the Lord of peace himself give you peace at all times in every way.”
It is a peace that is as effective (and perhaps even more effective) in crisis as in stasis. It is a peace that “transcends all understanding”.

Peace and Righteousness

Finally, there is no getting around this: peace is a consequence of righteous behavior. It is available only to those who live righteously. There is, Isaiah tells us, “no peace for the wicked”, whether we are thinking of the indolent, self-indulgent, willfully disenfranchised wicked, or those wicked men who have taken up knives and artillery against western civilization.

In contrast, the righteous man lives and dies in peace, in fellowship with his God:
“The righteous man perishes, and no one lays it to heart;
  devout men are taken away, while no one understands.
  For the righteous man is taken away from calamity;
  he enters into peace;
  they rest in their beds who walk in their uprightness.”


  1. Funny, just turned on the news this morning and there was the item that finally Women in Saudi Arabia will now be allowed to drive and get their drivers licenses. They will still need a man's permission to so though. It' amazing how confused the human mind and intellect can be by the time one reaches adulthood, but a Muslim cleric promptly stated that women only have a brain one quarter the size of a man. The tragic part of this inability or unwillingness to think logically AND therefore compassionately is of course that it creates interior personal, and external public, war, strife, and abuse, especially when present in a person in a seat of power. It is especially tragic if entire populations and cultures allow themselves get caught up in this veil of unreasonableness and inability to think.

  2. Below is a link to an interesting article and good analysis concerning the problem with Islam. This writer also confirms what I think was already mentioned in at least one of the blogs here, namely, that by Muslim standards, ISIS is following Islamic teaching exactly by trying to force everyone into Islam including killing those who refuse. It is amazing that in the American public sphere Muslims will deny or ignore that aspect of their religious teaching which really puts them at odds with purists who are following Allah's will to convert by force if necessary. You don't make friends by advocating that and by supporting that, openly or clandestinely, so that Islam is destined to become a failure. It also illustrates the tremendous difficulties humanity has with recognizing what is truthful even if it is just to the extend of assigning higher probabilities of correctness. And those probabilities certainly are not on the side of Islam.

  3. It is amazing that in the American public sphere Muslims will deny or ignore that aspect of their religious teaching which really puts them at odds with purists who are following Allah's will to convert by force if necessary.

    This would be the reason, I think.

    The strategy is called "taqiya", or, as Infogalactic puts it, "precautionary dissimulation". In other words, most sects within Islam teach that it is acceptable or even desirable to lie in the service of jihad.

  4. That would make sense in that case and of course it confounds the issue even further of why people with all levels of intellectual capacity are willing to live like that, by an outright lie. Something we have seen before in Nazi Germany and are continuing to see under tyrannical regimes.

    Here are links to IDC (In Defense of Christians) describing the current genocide being carried out in the Middle East by ISIS and similar organizations.

    Currently IDC will hold a major meeting in Washington DC to address this issue.