“When There is No Peace”

Libya Alhurra TV posted images on Facebook of Pro-American supporters taking to the streets in Libya today to distance themselves from the rocket attack which killed Chris Stevens

I’ve been having a back and forth with my friend Morgan over his recent blog post reacting against the attack on the Libyan embassy.  Morgan is a deeply committed Christian and an articulate interlocutor.  This exchange raised a question with me: how do Christians respond to the kind of senseless violence that seems to be so prevalent in our world?

Certainly, any reaction that blames all Muslims as a whole is to be vehemently denied.  The above photo, from this story about an anti-extremist rally, is evidence enough that not all of Islam is violent (and it is sad indeed that we must keep reminding folks of this in a post-9/11 world).

It seems to me that a measured, loving, but honest response is warranted.  Many of my liberal and progressive Christian friends were so quick to remind us that not all Muslims are terrorists that they seemed to forget that a tragic few are.  They seemed more interested in offering an apologetic on behalf of moderate Muslims than in grieving the lost or crying out for justice.  This strikes me as a “PC” response but not necessarily a Christian one.

As Christians, we are called to pray and work for and witness to the peace of Christ, the prince of Peace.  How that plays out in the world of international politics, foreign policy, and non-state actors with RPGs is a complex question.  Whatever else we say, we must know that the call for peace must not come at the expense of justice, or vice versa.  The prophet Jeremiah thus excoriated the false prophets of his day:

They have treated the wound of my people carelessly, saying, “Peace, peace,” when there is no peace. (6:14, NRSV)

We must not be too quick to cry “peace” in the absence of justice.  There is a time for peace and for war, a time for forgiveness, and a time for the sword of government to do its work.  The time for reconciliation will come.  For now, let us pray for the victims of this attack, for the people of Libya (especially those of the household of faith), and for the perpetrators: may they be brought to justice swiftly, and may the God of all people so draw them to Himself that they repent and are reconciled to God and neighbor.

For now, as the old song goes, let peace begin with me.

4 thoughts on ““When There is No Peace””

  1. Jeremiah quote is a little misapplied. It’s not about saying peace to people who don’t say peace back to us. It’s about a people who are shameless about their sin. Anyway, I just think we can’t let what evil jackasses do change who we are. We’re people of peace who have a savior who wants the world to know that He loves them. We’ve got to stay on message with that no matter what. It’s not about saying “Oh there are good Muslims too” so much as saying even if hellfire and brimstone is falling from the sky in Libya, I’m still going to talk about how cool Jesus is.

    I watched that movie trailer by the way. It is the corniest, most badly acted piece of crap I have ever seen. I am completely perplexed that anybody would be driven to riot by it. Why would you actually watch the thing the whole way through? It was about at the technical level of a middle school project or something. So I don’t understand the mentality of someone who wants to kill people because of that. But I can’t let that type of strange, sad person change who I am.

    I’m just so sick of the instigators. I’m not saying there’s moral equivalence between a guy who wants to burn a Koran and a guy who wants an excuse to shoot rocket-propelled grenades at people. But I figure 95% of Muslims just want to have decent, stable lives where they can earn a reasonable living and not got bombed or terrorized.

    I really think we need to change the paradigm with which we view this. The people in Benghazi holding up the “We’re sorry America” signs who I was responding to in my blog post are like the people who live in a really bad housing project where the gang-bangers have just taken over. Gang-bangers are going to use all kinds of stupid crap to justify their actions, including religious teachings. The Zeta drug cartel in Mexico have created some bizarre warped version of fundamentalist Christianity. They leave Bible verses on a lot of their victims. But we would never try to say that the rest of the Mexicans are collectively responsible for the actions of the Zetas or that their amazing misuse of scripture reflects poorly on scripture.The people of Mexico aren’t hiding or protecting them; they’re terrorized by them. If I were a Libyan and I knew a Salafist gang who lived in my kasbah, I would be terrified of snitching on them too.

  2. Morgan, I’m not sure I misapplied the text in the way that you described. I think saying “peace” is wrong right now, not because they aren’t saying it back, but because it does not describe the situation that exists. There literally is no peace, and to claim it in the midst of this, absent a cry for justice, is wrong. Jeremiah was responding to false prophets who were claiming God’s judgment was not coming, that things really were OK. To me, those who are so quick to defend all of Islam while ignoring the very real evil are crying peace where there is none. I think the analogy of gang-bangers is useful, and true in a lot of ways. I don’t think we really have any way of knowing, though, if the people with the RPGs or the people with the pro-American signs are more representative of the Libyan populace at this time. The truth is probably somewhere in the middle: if I were in the Middle East I would have plenty of reason to be angry at America, but I would hope I would not attack an embassy over it. That is what makes all of this worse; they didn’t attack a military installation or some kind of industrial tool of oppression. It was an embassy, a place from which conversation and understanding and relationship comes. Of course we know that jihadists do not respect the usual conventions of military action, but still, it is shocking.

    Thank you for coming by to share your thoughts. Iron sharpens iron.

  3. “Justice”. Maybe the Muslims who raided the Embassy were after after justice in their own way. I’ve heard reports it was a planned attack in retaliation for a drone strike that killed a leader of their movement in Libya.
    Peace starts with us. Maybe if we had not intervened in Libya (for reasons that remain unclear) we would not have stirred up this whirlwind.
    Is it not obvious how the US and allies knock over one state after another in a relentless drive to destroy Iran?
    Why is this our business?

    1. Steve, I have not heard reports like the one you mention. I don’t think I suggested anywhere that the US has pure hands. I do believe that in the realm of international relations, targeting ambassadors is particularly beyond the pale. Also, I don’t think blaming the victim should be our first response to any act of violence.

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