Monday, December 19, 2005

“… and on earth, peace"

“… and on earth, peace" (Presbyterian Outlook, free registration required):
"So we know that the Scriptures are inspired by God and are authoritative for the church’s faith and life. Does that mean that the words in Scripture uttered by angels are just as inspired as those spoken by God or humans? Do their words carry clout, or can we dismiss them as being platitudes? Getting specific, what’s to be made of the angels’ song to the shepherds, "Glory to God in the highest heaven, and on earth peace…” (Luke 2:14a)? If the chief end of humans is to glorify God, then the first line of the angelic song sounds substantive. What about the second line, the one that sings the promise of “peace?”

Granted, modern translators differ as to who should receive the peace promise. Is peace to be experienced by “all people?” Is it intended for “all people of good will?” Or is it being offered only to “those on whom God’s favor rests?” What’s for sure is that the peace is to be experienced by many, including at least all recipients of God’s saving grace. It may be intended, as suggested in other biblical passages, for all persons created by God. Indeed, given the plan for the wolf to lie down with the lamb, it appears that God promises peace for all creation.

What about that peace? Holiday carols sing its melody. Christmas cards echo its refrain. But do we really want it?..."

Jack Haberer, the newly installed editor of Presbyterian Outlook (free registration required to read the full articles) asks the question "But do we really want [peace]?" He then goes on to make a cogent case that we DO want peace -- even those who look at issues from different perspectives.

The General Assembly in 2004 urged divestment from Israel and this action caused an immediate response from Jewish organizations who are understandibly sensitive to attacks, both military and rhetorical. It also resulted in what Haberer calls an "angry backlash" from persons within the PC(USA) who wanted to see the Palestinian acts of violence condemned in equal proportion. Haberer points out the both sides "yearn to see peace among those conflicted peoples", and differ only on methods of approach.

The 2004 action, if I understand the path toward implementation correctly, cannot take effect before the 2006 General Assembly, although research and recommendations have taken place. In addition, there have been conversations among Presbyterians in local congregations and presbyteries. The wild card in all of this is that each general Assembly consists of a new slate of commissioners, who can, and often do, overturn or modify previous GA actions.

These actions are symbolic. Caterpillar (which does NOT manufacture armor-plated bulldozers; that is put on by a third party) will sell its stock to others and will no doubt continue to show an ever-growing bottom line. The symbolism is, on one hand, an expression of displeasure with the way Israel responds to terrorist attacks on its citizens. On the other hand, we are symbolically assigning blame for the conflict. The PC(USA) is perceived as beng less than even-handed in dealing with the problem. Having read the news releases from PNS and the Washington Office, I see both sides being criticized, but not in a balanced way.

The criticism of the anti-Israeli factions seems almost like an afterthought, and the impression I get is that our demoninational stand is that Israel is the primary offender in all of this. I cannot accept that. Our credibility would be greatly enhanced if, when we condemn Israel for bulldozing the homes of suicide bombers, we condemn in equal terms the hate for the Jews that drives this terror against Israelis. Peace can never be a reality in Israel and Palestine while hate is taught to succeeding generations.

Haberer's point is that with the Israeli/Palestinian conflict, both sides of the debate are seeking the same outcome, just as those who want immediate withdrawal from Iraq are seeking the same goals as those who feel that we can only leave when Iraq is stable, and democracy is working.

He suggests that we consider halting our internal conficts over how to achieve our goals of peace and "cooperate with God in helping them come to pass"


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