Written by Paul Penner Tuesday, 26 December 2006 18:00Back in my college days, the question, "What is the one thing you desire most?" would have elicited this response: peace in the Middle-East.
The answer soon became a cliché. In the cafeteria line, I would hear a student respond to the food server's query with: "Green beans, corn and peace in the Middle-East."
The '60s era of anti-war protests is over. Today, a lasting peace is as elusive as ever.
There is a growing sense of hopelessness in America and around the world. Tyrannical governments continue to oppress and murder their own people. Terrorists and suicide bombers continue their indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets.
I cannot imagine the pain and suffering endured by people living in the hot zones of Iraq, Afghanistan and Palestine. Though it is far away from home, it is not far from my conscious thought. I feel a sense of resignation that I cannot make a difference, even if I tried.
I suspect most Americans feel the same way. It is easy to develop a fatalistic perspective. It is easy to think we cannot do anything about it; therefore, we will focus on life at home.
Every now and then, reason breaks through the barriers we create for our protection.
Consider these points of reason:
-- For every fatality, an idea will never give birth to something good on this earth. Perhaps a Jonas Salk or a Martin Luther King will not rise up and bring blessings to humanity. Instead of finding new medicines that heal or leading the cause for human rights, the curse of death rules in its stead.
When the Cold War ended, the late President Reagan called the economic impact a "peace dividend." Imagine the economic and social impact on the world if there were no wars to be fought and peace ruled the world.
In plain talk, if peace ruled the world:
-- The only deaths would come from natural causes and accidents.
-- All disagreements would end peacefully and equitably.
-- We would not need divorce courts.
-- Our judicial system would merely have to moderate disputes to ensure fairness.
-- Families would live together in harmony.
-- Children and spouses would not be abused in any way.
-- Employers and employees would treat each other with fairness and respect.
-- People and businesses would be content with making a reasonable profit.
-- We would not need to maintain an army for defense.
-- We would have no need for nuclear weapons.
-- All countries would live in harmony with each other.
-- Trade between countries would be fair and equitable.
-- The economic savings from these benefits would be used for the improved welfare of all people.
It all sounds like pie in the sky, I know. Some of the points may require a stretch of the imagination, even in an ideal environment.
Perhaps we have everything turned around-where abnormal behavior has become the norm. We are growing accustomed to extended periods of conflict. We know how to wage war effectively. However, we lack the skills to "wage" peace as effectively as we do with war.
This abnormality extends to people of faith, too. We profess to know the answer to this dilemma. We claim to know the Prince of Peace. Yet, when conflict arises, we instinctively raise up our defenses and counter-attack. Our image is not unlike those who do not know the way of peace.
We live in two worlds. In one, the real world influences our behavior. In the ideal world, we fall short of expectations. Inevitably, the two worlds collide.
The only person capable to bridge the gulf between the two worlds is the Prince of Peace. He understands the struggles we face. He faced them as well. Even then, he never abandoned the ideal world where peace rules supreme.
As we move beyond Christmas 2006, the New Year beckons us to find ways to give peace a chance.