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Peace And Righteousness

Micah was a minor poetic prophet who taught people a message of social justice in the eighth century B.C.E. It seems we do not learn very quickly. The fact of the matter is that we have yet to shape our swords into plow shears and we certainly still study the art of war. We are still surprised and confused by violence in a world where millions of people are without adequate food and care. So, are we truly listening to the word of God when we shout our supports for military invasion of other countries?

Many Christian Americans feel great pride in the fact that our President is willing to openly pray, speak of the existence of God and publicly protest ideas that he feels are morally wrong. Many American Christians are ready to use our nation’s military might to fight injustice. Toby Keith, a country music singer, has caused only mild controversy by including the lyric “we’ll put a boot up you’re a–, it’s the American way” in one of his songs. Most of us—church bound or not—are ready to cheer at such a line. But, is that really the message of the biblical text? Granted we are read in the Bible there is a time to fight and that nation will rise up against nation. But, Micah tells us that once “the mountain of the house of the Lord” is raised above all other mountains that wars will cease and people will feel no need to study how to kill one another. Are we as Christians living in a political and military super power helping the Kingdom of God be developed on earth if we support wars?

This is a difficult question. When other nations have to ability to stockpile and potentially to use weapons that could kill thousands of people, would we be fools to not intervene? There is no simple answer to that question. President Bush, hopefully, knows more about the subject than I do. But, if we are to go to war with Iraq or any other nation we must recognize the war for what it is: our nation desiring to protect its own interests here and abroad. By interests I mean the lives of our citizens and we will leave the discussion of motivations based on oil consumption for another day. For now, think of the noble reason of protecting lives when I speak of interests. God is not part of the equation. God does not desire America to invade Iraq and fight a war that would wind up in the streets of urban Baghdad where thousands of men, women and children live, would He?

Just War Theory was given to us by Saint Augustine. It was Augustine’s idea that in certain situations it was morally acceptable for Christians to defend themselves or others by the use of force. Aggression was never permitted. It is interesting to not that “preemptive” strikes were also not included in Augustine’s idea of a righteous war.

Despite this, the entire Middle East seems to many Americans to be a ticking time bomb. Americans young and old cannot understand why “those people” are so violent. They cannot comprehend why people in the Middle East does not want our country to go over there and “fix” it. We do not realize the great injustices living themselves out every day. People hear of Palestinian terrorist attacks and it angers them. They cheer the state of Israel and pretend to share a common bond as two nations facing an evil campaign of terror. We ignore or are oblivious to the fact that Israel has massacred thousands of men, women and even children under the guise of military response. To wipe out a refugee camp is not a military campaign—it is terrorism whether or not the U.S.A. recognizes the flag you are flying as the symbol of a nation or not. Prime Minister Ariel Sharon is as guilty of inflicting terror as Yasser Arafat.

But why is there a need for such violence at all? Okay, you say if both sides are guilty, then what do we do? There is violence because there is injustice. People are hungry, forced to live in shanty towns and as refugees. Mere miles away other people live in neighborhoods nearly identical to upper middle class American homes. And we wonder why there is animosity. If you put a child in a room with another child and give one anything it wants and the other barely enough to live, the neglected child would come to despise the child that is being spoiled. Violence would most likely occur. The same thing happens with nations and ethnic groups on a different level. There is violence and war in this world because there is poverty and hunger.

Micah suggests that there will not be peace in the world while there is unjust hunger and poverty. The first several chapters of the book of Micah speak of the evils of the past political systems and the destruction that awaits them. Well, Samaria is long gone. Great injustice causes people to revolt and to change the system. If you don’t believe it, read some history. Micah reveals the only real solution in chapter four. We must act with righteousness. Righteousness must contain generosity—not just the fulfillment of the law. Peace on earth cannot be obtained until we are acting with greater righteousness and greater generosity. Sure, the United States could eradicate the political system in Iraq, but who would rule once Saddam is gone and how many civilians would die in the process? We drove the Taliban out of Afghanistan but we also destroyed the Muslim middle class of that country that was largely responsible, due to their generosity and love, for the aid that allowed the nation’s poorest people to get by. What will the cost of war be? Will it really help us get anywhere closer to peace? Micah does not seem to think that it will.

Perhaps in summary we should compare things this way. Are you with Toby Keith, who suggests that we kick our enemies in the backside? Or are you with Toby’s fellow country music star Alan Jackson who reminds us, “I know Jesus and I talk to God and I remember this from when I was young. Faith, hope, and love are some good things He gave us…but the greatest is love.” Without love there will not be righteousness. Without righteousness there will not be peace.

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See Also

IN THE EVENT OF WAR, PART 1

IN THE EVENT OF WAR, PART 2

WHAT IS RIGHTEOUSNESS?

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