a generous paradoxy: peace through weakness

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Sunday, September 7th, 2008

a generous paradoxy: peace through weakness

i’m going to do a little experiment in which this will be the first of a series of 3 posts with the title of a generous paradoxy. so, we’ll see how this works out…
i’ve enjoyed watching the political conventions over the last couple weeks. they have been the best of politics and the worst of politics. most definitely, they were a sharp contrast to each other, which i hope to blog about in the coming days.
one of the observations regarding the republican national convention that most stood out to me was 2004 election deja vu with one night’s theme of god and country. with a barrage of patriotic prayers, contemporary christian singers and country “artists” (who, of course, are all christians because they sing country music…) littering the stage, it was hard to distinguish between republican the party and republican the christian denomination.
in the midst of, i believe, john mccain’s acceptance speech on thursday night, i noticed something that caught my attention. as the camera panned across the crowd, it zoomed in on a person (probably wearing some awesome american flag cowboy hat covered in buttons that read, drill here, drill now or something about colors not running…) who was hoisting a poster that read, peace through strength. this poster really caught my attention and got me thinking.
this mantra has been prevalent in the republican party ever since the reagan era and has become particularly prominent in the last few years due to the political climate concerning the war in iraq. doing a quick google search will yield plenty results as to the nature of this statement, but in essence, it’s the idea that when we have a big military and can strike fear in our enemies, we can have peace because nobody wants to mess with us. the cold war, for example, was based on this mutual fear of annihilation. peace through strength is fear mongering at its best.
recently, i finished reading jesus for president by shane claiborne and chris haws (i think i mentioned it before and hope to blog in length about it very soon) and the peace through strength poster really reminded me of a broad theme throughout the book. in addition, i was reminded of one of my favorite—if not my absolute favorite—derek webb songs, my enemies are men like me.
in the midst of this convention that, at times, resembled a large denominational gathering more than a political convention, i couldn’t help but to think about the strange phenomenon—that claiborne and haws spend a long time dealing with—whereas christians are probably the largest contingency of people who are supportive of war and the idea of “peace through strength.” one of the themes of jesus for president and webb’s my enemies are men like me is that jesus regularly instructed believers (and people, in general) to love our enemies and seek peace by ways beyond the sword. there was never instruction to intimidate others or use the threat of retaliation and as a means to peace. somewhere along the way, we’ve lost that. peace through strength, at best, is a generous paradoxy. at worst, it’s simply a frightening continuation of hundreds of years of violence and war in the name of the christian god.
for some reason, christians in the u.s., by and large, have preferred to see jesus as some kind of war monger who beats up his enemies and bullies satan into submission. my good friend mark driscoll speaks for the majority when he says,

Some emergent types [want] to recast Jesus as a limp-wrist hippie in a dress with a lot of product in His hair, who drank decaf and made pithy Zen statements about life while shopping for the perfect pair of shoes. In Revelation, Jesus is a prize fighter with a tattoo down His leg, a sword in His hand and the commitment to make someone bleed. That is a guy I can worship. I cannot worship the hippie, diaper, halo Christ because I cannot worship a guy I can beat up.

that’s sad.
it’s probably needless to go on and on about this. i think you see where i’m coming from. honestly, this is less of an “assault” on republicans than it is as a challenge to christians to take a close analysis of the way jesus interacted with his enemies, thus compelling us to rethink our unwavering party affiliations. by no means am i saying that christians should align with democrats, but equally, it shouldn’t be with the republicans. well, i won’t get started on that yet…more on political affiliations and paradoxy to come…
in the meantime, take a listen to derek webb’s my enemies are men like me. (and go pick up a copy of jesus for president!)


on the next episode of a generous paradoxy, we bring you a generous paradoxy: i pledge allegiance?