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The way of peace is a way of life

Basic principle of Anabaptist belief #10: Peace modeled by the Prince of Peace.

Anabaptists believe that the peace position is neither optional, marginal, nor related mainly to the military. On the basis of Scripture, Anabaptists renounce violence in human relationships. We see peace and reconciliation—the way of love—as being at the heart of the Christian gospel. God gave his followers this ethic not as a point to ponder, but as a command to obey. It was costly for Jesus and it may also be costly for his followers. The way of peace is a way of life.

Are you interested in practical theology, putting your faith in action, and experiencing the overflow of the Holy Spirit? Today we’re discussing radical peace from an Anabaptist Christian standpoint, which I recently discovered, resonated with, and found to be incredibly beautiful. Welcome! Let’s dive in together.

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Peace isn’t shallow or complacent. Jesus Christ, the Prince of Peace, suffered literal, bloody death for the sake of reconciliation, so that we sinful humans might live at peace with the one and only righteous God, here and for eternity. Our souls can rest because we don’t have to worry about our status with God anymore. Instead, we are now commanded to do as has been done unto us. This ministry of reconciliation is powerful and mandated for all Christians, or “mini-Christs.” Anabaptists believe that the peace position is not optional, not marginal, and not related mainly to the military.

This peace, a result of having God’s Spirit dwelling in us, also extends from our spiritual life into the physical world we live in each day. Peace seeks justice, harmony, the wellbeing of others, particularly those who are not physically or societally “well.” (The sick don’t need a doctor, after all.) And it does this without violence; it loves instead of hating or taking revenge. Anabaptists renounce violence in human relationships.

Isn’t that beautiful? Here we have Christians – and not only individuals but also on a structural, organized level – standing up against violence, including violence towards marginalized people. One need only look up their missions work to see that this is true.

To renounce violence in human relationships is to agree that domestic violence is a sin, and to recognize that the physical, verbal, and emotional violence breaks the King of king’s heart. Moreover, rape is a sin, it is never the survivor’s fault, and the intense violation there breaks God’s heart as well as the survivor (usually a woman)’s body and potential place in society.

Gun violence by anyone, gang violence, massacring towns with machetes and drowning the victims, the prolific abuse of power to violate marginalized and poor people – these are sins, and they go directly against the holistic peace or Shalom God intends.

My rapper friend Blackman Bausi (see “The world changers“) always says that peace is love. Amani ni upendo. This means working together towards harmony, against violence, towards lasting solutions. He’s a big proponent of that in the Democratic Republic of Congo, his home. And the Anabaptists agree: We see peace and reconciliation – the way of love – as being at the heart of the Christian gospel.

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Blackman Bausi and I in Goma, a few days after recording “Give Me Hope,” a song crying to God for hope as we work for justice and peace. Photo belongs to KSB and Blackman.

Again, this call to peace is not something we can choose to ignore. Not if we’re trying to honor God and walk in step with his Spirit. Turning the other cheek instead of retaliating, standing up for those who cannot fight for their own rights, putting others first, persevering… God gave his followers this ethic not as a point to ponder, but as a command to obey.

Jesus put his status on the line for people who needed his physical, emotional, and spiritual healing. Some responded in kind, with love and dedication, and others left him without so much as a thank you. Jesus put his bodily life on the line for people who spat in his face, tore the flesh off his back, and made him out to be the worst kind of criminal when he was actually offering chance at redemption and reconciliation with their Creator.

And some of his disciples, including contemporary Christians, undergo similar fates. But what kind of faith, hope, or love do we have if we do not live our lives in thankfulness and obedience to the Lord who went through hell to bring us to himself? And there is blessing at the end. It was costly for Jesus and it may also be costly for his followers.

I find that different Christian denominations and faith streams inform each other’s understanding of God and his Kingdom. In this case, the Anabaptists put it well. The way of peace is a way of life.

 

 

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Are white Americans under attack?

“Make America White Again.” Thus said the Trump-inspired billboard in the link my friend posted. I follow my friend LBJ on Facebook since he constantly shares stimulating posts about race in the United States, and this week he posted a news link that I thought must be a satire.

However, snopes.com confirmed the existence of the since-removed billboard and shared a wealth of information about the man who put it up. Rick Tyler is from Tennessee and is running for Congress on a blatantly white supremacist platform. I will address a few of his points below. For more information on Tyler’s consistently racist beliefs, see his campaign website, which is more of a hub for mini audio clips on white supremacy than an explanation of his political plan. I suggest you skim these sources now so you can read this response in context.

According to the Associated Press’s article on ABC7 Chicago, “(Tyler) told WRCB-TV that he doesn’t hate ‘people of color,’ but wants to return to an earlier time ‘when there were no break-ins; no violent crime; no mass immigration.’”

Americans, we can do better than to vote in a man who believes black people are animals and that intermarriage between races is wrong. We can do better than to buy into these things ourselves.

Tyler romanticizes the past and portrays the past sixty years as the decline of this nation due to immigration laws that allow more people of color to enter. That vision of the United States is simply not true. The way the United States addresses crime and incarcerates people of color has shifted over the years as policies are created or adjusted, but crime has been here all along, and not as a function of skin color.

As for the immigration comment, going back to a time before mass immigration would mean a non-white nation since Europeans were the first mass immigrants to a land of Native Americans. Somehow the majority of people forget that.

Tyler uses Christian lingo to bulk up his points, but taking Scripture out of context or using it to divide people on the basis of skin color is never what God wants. Snopes quotes Tyler saying, “The Caucasian race has been inordinately blessed and favored by the God of scripture. It was among this people that the new covenant gospel of Jesus Christ took root, blossomed, and flourished. Western Christian civilization evolved in the ensuing centuries leading to the eventual rise of our beloved America of yesteryear.”

Actually, Jesus Christ established his new covenant in the Middle East, in Israel-Palestine, Lebanon, Jordan and Syria, and then his followers spread his good news west into Asia, north into Europe and south into Africa. Missionaries continued to spread his Gospel of redemption and reconciliation, mercy and grace, love and truth and justice throughout the world. Clearly, Christianity is not a white religion; it is for everyone who would believe in Jesus.

Continuing with Tyler’s religious comment, the white race has not been favored more highly by God than any other race or ethnicity. Since the concept of race was developed by errant humans, those considered to be white have been privileged by other humans, by fellow white people, but this is not a sign of God’s blessing. Human power has nothing on God’s, and one would be wise not to confuse the two. Another word of caution for people who want to be like Jesus: avoid conflating Christianity with patriotism, white supremacy or nationalism.

Tyler exemplifies white supremacy at its prime. Initially I was surprised by his radicalism since it is 2016, but when I look at the history of this nation, I see that nothing has really improved; racism has only changed forms over time. To say Tyler could be from the Jim Crow era glorifies the present, which evidently is not accurate. While Tyler is only one man who, according to Snopes, accrued only a small following when he ran for Congress in 2014, the fact that he is making such racist, Islamophobic and homophobic public statements is frightening and, honestly, maddening.

For the sake of length, I cannot address everything Tyler has said, but many of his statements are so outrageous that they seem not to need a response. How could anyone believe that there is a white genocide in this nation, for example, and that black Africans are destroying the “once pristine and orderly white-ruled” South Africa? Read and research history to discover the truth.