Religion and Peace
A friend of mine, a Vietnam War combat veteran turned pacifist, posted a meme that I found disturbing. It contained two graphs. One of them showed the least religious countries in the world. The other displayed the most peaceful countries in the world. The two sets of countries lined up almost exactly.
Frankly, the graphs weren’t entirely reliable. In the graph of the least religious countries China was not even listed. But most sociologist tell us that China is the least religious country in the world, or one of them and not among the most peaceful ones. Other very religious countries that are also very peaceful, such as Costa Rica, didn’t show up in the graph of peaceful countries. Still the overlap in the two graphs was significant enough to be disturbing.
I very much want to believe that faith in Jesus leads people to become more peaceful than people without faith. Certainly, this should be the case. After all, Jesus came as the Prince of Peace (Isaiah 9:6). He commanded us to love our enemies, to do good to those who curse us, to turn the other cheek when hit (Matthew 5:38-46, Luke 6:32-35). Jesus lived a life of nonviolent love even as he endured violence, and he said, “Come, follow me.”
And the apostles took him at his word. Even when threatened by violence, they never responded with violence. Paul wrote, “Do not repay anyone evil for evil…Live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge… Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:17-19). And Peter wrote, “Do not repay evil for evil or abuse for abuse; but, on the contrary, repay with a blessing. It is for this that you were called—that you might inherit a blessing” (1 Peter 3:9).
For the first three hundred years after Jesus was resurrected Christians refused to practice violence or go to war. But then they drifted from the peaceful words and ways of Jesus. Now Christians are even more prone to violence than non-religious people. In our country polls have shown that when a war begins Christians are among the first to support the war and the last to stop supporting it. Likewise, polls have shown far more support for torture among Christians than among the nonreligious.
That is not how things should be. IF we follow Jesus, then our voices should be the first raised for peace and the last to stop resisting war and all forms of violence. War is always promoted in the name of noble causes and high ideals. But the true reasons for war are rarely ever revealed and they are not so pure and selfless as the promoters of war try to make them seem. Our ears need to be tuned to the words of Jesus, not the national leaders. Our first responsibility is to look to the example of the nonviolent Jesus and “follow in this steps” (1 Peter 2:21).
Grace and Peace,