PEACE PROBE by Gene Stoltzfus


The Cost of Peacemaking by peaceprobe
March 13, 2006, 11:39 am
Filed under: Nonviolence

The death of Tom Fox reminds us that there is a cost in peacemaking. Our culture abhors killing except when it is applied to the enemy or criminals. Tom Fox knew that death in the work of peacemaking is not avoidable in a world where force and violence is valued as the preeminent means to achieve and sustain order. Death in the living out of the nonviolent Way is inherent to the walk when that walk encounters the forces of violence. However, Tom also understood that death in the journey of peacemaking is not to be understood as a means to heaven nor is it a way to defeat or destroy the enemy and live out a national myth.

Voluntary suffering is one of the building blocks in the vocation of Christian peacemaking. While Christian peacemaking does not glorify martyrdom, it does acknowledge that in the work of peacemaking, people may die. Suffering has often been misused, manipulated harmfully and destructively for religious and personal ends in religious traditions. The Way of Christian peacemaking recognizes no inherent merit or transcendent blessing in suffering or death. While courage may be celebrated or acknowledged as a worth while expression of character, it is the result of prior commitments to The Way and not done as a means to gain merit. Christian peacemaking begins with a prayer, where all of life including its beginning and its end is offered as an act of love that the Glory of God might be revealed. 

For Christian peacemakers like Tom Fox the meaning of life and death in crisis situations is understood to point the way to faith and justice for the entire human family. However, death or any sacrifice will not be universally understood as pointing the way to wholesome life because popular culture thinks differently. In factdeath or undue risk in the pursuit of nonviolent enemy loving has been used to prove that projects and experiments in nonviolence do not work. Soldiers of the military may die by the thousands in defeat or victory but one death or embarrassing failure in the work of nonviolence is enough to unleash a chorus, calling for a pull back from the experiment in enemy loving and a call to resort to the culturally approved strategy, the use of lethal force.

We live in a world where methodologies for social change or justice making are subjected to a set of steps, or guidelines that must be contained in rational statements of faith or rigid goals and objectives. Christian peacemaking combines spirit and skills and inherently carries with it a different consciousness. When Christian peacemaking is compartmentalized into a routine discipline, devoid of risk, we emasculate it, and miss the deeper spiritual content of the Way. If you read Tom Fox’s blog, you will see that he knew this and has been trying to thoughtfully work out the interplay of spirit and witness in his life, until he died.

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