Yesterday I had a conversation with one of my coworkers and fellow peace activists at work. Her husband runs a church in one of the “less favorable” sections of Harrisburg, where recently a man was shot seven times. The church now has bullet holes in the side, and has been broken into three times in the last three weeks. Though the pastor holds monthly anti-violence rallies and reaches out to people in the neighborhood, people still react violently toward him. To put it bluntly, holding open your arms in embrace leaves you vulnerable to being stabbed.
This is the reality any activist, whether eco-, peace, poverty, etc. has to face when taking up this cross: your message, though life changing and real, will sound threatening to anyone who has a stake in what you oppose. For peace activists like myself, this can mean family, friends, strangers, the government (as the article above demonstrates), whoever has some sort of a benefit or control because they exercise violence over another, and there are many of them. Starting this blog was risky enough. Though I’m sure many of you are my college friends who were fully aware of my pacifism, many of my friends here at home weren’t, and being open about that often invokes a less-than-favorable response. I’ve been accused of hating troops, hating America, being unpatriotic (albeit somewhat true, by their standards), and even being less of a man because, far as they were concerned, I wouldn’t defend my wife if she were being attacked (not true, but that’s another post for another day).
And I’ve been lucky. Peace activists across the world face greater harm than ridicule. They face imprisonment, torture, death, harm to loved ones. I’m the lucky one who just hides behind a computer screen, telling you what I think. I hope to be leaving my safe little apartment here in favor of more activism soon, but I can’t hold a candle to those on the front lines. The fact is: though peace is central to the Bible’s teachings, the world is hostile to it, because war and violence is a mainstay that people profit from, be it the drug supplier who snuffs out anyone in his way, or the government that utilizes war to benefit itself.
If you are a peace activist, and you are open about it in places where it can be noticed and in some cases recorded, you will be watched. If you step out of their lines, you will be arrested. In other countries, worse can, and probably will, happen to you. Take heart, for we were warned of this in the Gospels:
16 “Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves. 17Beware of men, for they will deliver you over to courts and flog you in their synagogues, 18 and you will be dragged before governors and kings for my sake, to bear witness before them and the Gentiles. 19 When they deliver you over, do not be anxious how you are to speak or what you are to say, for what you are to say will be given to you in that hour. 20 For it is not you who speak, but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you. 21 Brother will deliver brother over to death, and the father his child, and children will rise against parents and have them put to death,22 and you will be hated by all for my name’s sake. But the one who endures to the end will be saved. 23When they persecute you in one town, flee to the next, for truly, I say to you, you will not have gone through all the towns of Israel before the Son of Man comes.
24 “A disciple is not above his teacher, nor a servant above his master. 25It is enough for the disciple to be like his teacher, and the servant like his master. If they have called the master of the house Beelzebul, how much more will they malign those of his household.
If you are following Christ’s teachings, people will notice, and they will not like it. It’s amazing to me that the apostles took up this cause, but they did. They preached Christ risen, and that his teachings were the new law, and it got them tortured and killed. Yet it only spread, for as Tertullian said, “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” I’m not going to encourage you to go get yourself killed (It says be WISE AS SERPENTS, people), but if you take up this cross, understand the burden that comes with you.
I don’t want this to be all doom and gloom and everything. Being an activist for peace means you carry hope and love to those who don’t have it and who need it badly. Remember that as you go, that you are bringing light to the darkness, bringing the God of love to those who are enslaved by the God of hopelessness and hate. Love them for all you’re worth, and you WILL tear down walls.