Objectively speaking…

We’re two candles into Advent, which means that some of congregations spent this last Sunday talking about peace.  Of the four themes of Advent, it’s arguably the one theme that is easier to talk about than to enact (go ahead, argue with me… prove my point!).

Some describe peace as the opposite of war.  Others identify peace as a lack of conflict.  Martin Luther King stated:  “True peace is not the absence of tension: it is the presence of justice”.  

“Give peace a chance.” – Lennon

“Let peace begin with me…” – Miller, Jackson-Miller

“All I want is some peace and quiet!” – Parents and Teachers.  Everywhere.

In The Anatomy of Peace[1], the authors offer that when we see others as objects (as opposed to human beings) we begin an escalation of violence.  In fact, beginning to see someone else as an object is an act of violence against that individual.  Another Martin (this one, Buber) distinguished between understanding others as either “I/Thou” or “I/It”, with the ultimate Thou being God.  

When we objectify others we categorize them (In-laws, Democrats/Republicans, Immigrants and Refugees, Israeli/Palestinian) and see them as that which occupies space and time, but do not see them as someone we are in relationship with.  We may see them in terms of their value to us as opposed to their value as intrinsic. Chances are good you’ve been on either side of this equation

Why is this important?  Because we who talk about peace cannot have peace until we bridge the gap.  

The words that have become the central themes of Advent[2] may have a questionable beginning, but they aren’t for wimps.  Words like joy, hope, love and peace challenge our way of thinking and being in a way that echoes the readings from the prophets and the promise of the Second Coming of Christ.  These are life-changing words… if they become more than just words.

In other words, Peace should be more than a nice idea on a banner.  It needs to be a life-changing way of seeing others in our families, communities, churches and world.

My challenge to you this week is to consciously choose to see everyone you meet as a person – complete with feelings, thoughts and agency.  Don’t see them as your friend, neighbor, spouse, child, waitstaff, clerk, pastor, etc. See them as THEM.  Bonus points this week if the individual you are seeing in this way is someone you’ve disagreed with.

Let peace begin with me, indeed.

Blessings –

Karen


[1] Ferrell, J., & Boyce, D. (2015). The anatomy of peace: Resolving the heart of conflict. Berrett-Koehler Publishers

[2] Loosely based on the lectionary readings, but codified by the Christian supply companies… the folks who sell bulletins, etc.  That’s right, they were a marketing tool.

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