09 December 2021

Truth, reality, and peace

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Yesterday, "irreverent billionaire" and peace advocate Yusaku Maezawa arrived at the International Space Station, together with his assistant Yozo Hirano. Source.

Last Sunday, our pastor, Matt Boswell, gave us a sermon on peace as one of the core themes of Advent. (You can hear the full sermon here.) He asked us to distinguish true peace from the deceptive peacefulness imposed by oppression. He read from Zechariah's prophecy in Luke 1:68-75 ... [Here I'm using the New International Version]

Praise be to the Lord, the God of Israel, because he has come to his people and redeemed them. He has raised up a horn [a strong king] of salvation for us in the house of his servant David (as he said through his holy prophets of long ago), salvation from our enemies and from the hand of all who hate us— to show mercy to our ancestors and to remember his holy covenant, the oath he swore to our father Abraham: to rescue us from the hand of our enemies, and to enable us to serve him without fear in holiness and righteousness before him all our days.

Matt then comments: "This is not a wish for a salvation from reality but a salvation of reality."

Last Sunday's queries.
At Camas Friends Church our sermons often end with a set of queries. The query that struck me this time was "How can I participate in the coming of Peace?" Here are some reflections that came to me since Sunday. 

Before I go further: I would love for you to add to or improve this list. I have been asked to speak on peace at Spokane Friends Meeting next month, and I need all the help I can get.

Another slide from last Sunday.
Living in truth and reality. Years ago, I was given the advice to "live in truth and reality." The person who said this to me wasn't making some abstract philosophical distinction between "truth" and "reality"; she was saying that I should be aware of the actual situation around me, using criteria I myself claimed to believe in; and be aware of my own participation and impact in that situation. If I am seemingly at peace because I'm insulated from the world's pain by affluence and privilege, or because I have become numb to the conflicts and griefs within me, or because I am trying to rationalize the fleeting ecstasies of an addiction, can I really call that peace?

Disarming the enemies of my soul. Whatever is telling me that I'm unloveable, that my many mistakes are irredeemable, or that I am an imposter -- those demons must be shown the door. Illusions of grandiosity, the sense that everything depends on me -- they too must go. You and I have the authority to order them out.

Many of us oscillate between these states -- between imposter syndrome and indispensability, or between a sense of helplessness and a determination to be in control, but we are all entitled to a balanced sense of healthy personal authority and mutual accountability to our community. 

(We're also entitled to ask for help when we lose that confidence! Sooner or later our help will be needed by someone else; healthy confidence is shared confidence.)

Giving Caesar what's Caesar's. We are to give God what is God's and Caesar what is Caesars; and these guidelines are not necessarily in conflict. Paying taxes so that our Caesars can keep their promises to us is completely acceptable. (To make things more interesting, in the so-called democracies, we are supposed to be Caesar. To retreat into cynical passivity is an abdication of office.)

Caesar, unfortunately, often steps over the line and wants to tell us who our enemies are and what cruelties we should inflict on them, whereas Jesus has told us to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us. News flash: Jesus outranks Caesar. We are always entitled to evaluate the authorities' definitions of "enemy," "alien," "patriot," and every other term in the propagandist's playbook.

Giving God what is God's. The meaning of this is deceptively simple. Caesar is entitled to my participation in the stewardship and mutual care of our communities -- locally, nationally, and internationally. But only God is entitled to me. This is why I try to center myself constantly with the short prayer "I want to dwell in You," because I know from long experience that this is where I find peace. But I'm not going to lie; there are days when even this simple prayer is a challenge to remember.

Being available to others seeking and finding peace. In a blog post on short prayers, I described how I posted the prayer of St. Francis ("Make me an instrument of your peace...") on my workstation at the Western Electric telephone factory. I would like to think that some of the conversations it provoked had an encouraging effect, although most of my fellow workers seemed either a bit puzzled or indifferent. Since then I've often looked for the company of others who work for peace, or want to do so -- but I couldn't do that if nobody revealed this interest to the world. Let people know that you care about peace, and, together, let's take some territory away from the spirits of violence and cynicism.

Related: my "evangelism and the Quaker testimonies" project, Woodbrooke Quaker Study Center, 2003-04; and Signs, part three.

José Santos Woss: Who are violence interrupters, what do they do, how are they funded?

Toward living in truth: peace and the vital role of journalism. Nobel Peace Prize ceremony is a few hours away.

Journalism's vital role extends to the religion beat, as two journalists demonstrate.

Randy Woodley: the mutual influences of indigenous heritage and Christian identity.

Have I mentioned that I'd love to have your feedback on my readers' survey?

John Lee Hooker and Ry Cooder on the BBC, 1992.

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