October 3, 2008

obstacles to peacemaking

Week one of Biblical and Practical Peacemaking is winding down. I'm enjoying Just Peacemaking, edited by Dr. Stassen. And here is the question they have posed to us: What obstacles do you think might prevent churches from teaching and preaching about peacemaking?

Many obstacles prevent churches from teaching and preaching peace. I would like to focus on one particular obstacle that I see as a pre-cursor to others: consumerism. Often our theology reflects the consumer-oriented norms of Western culture. Over time, consumerism erodes the social awareness and commitment that our Scriptures and history remind us of. Unaware of this approach to the Christian Story we begin to lack the imagination for an alternative, peacemaking society. Instead, we begin to reflect popular culture ideals for social engagement–we become increasingly concerned only in that which brings us safety and comfort, while increasingly uninterested in the plight of anyone that does not directly effect our lifestyles.

In order for us to become peace making communities, we must challenge a self-understanding of church as an institution that delivers religious good and services. Instead we must re-discover an understanding of the church as a those called to embody the Message of Jesus today. One way in which we might begin to do this is by beginning to reinterpret our sacred consumptive practice: communion.

No matter what a person’s politics may be, few San Diego residents show concern for the thousands of migrants that die alone in our mountains and deserts. In our faith community, a step towards addressing this apathy was celebrating communion with a tortilla instead of the common bread or wafer. Before passing the elements, we remember why we use the tortilla. This simple act has radically effected our desire to build peace in our community.

Communion understood as the moment in which all divisions are exposed, yet no longer divisive, may be a tangible tool towards helping us develop a new self-understanding, moving us towards an atmosphere where the desire and energy to be peace makers is a potential.

What do you think?

1 comment :

brooke said...

I completely agree with the obstacle of consumerism. I think another big obstacle is the neglect of churches in general to make it a mission to embrace the marginalized in society. Take the current situation with Prop 8 for an example. This would be an incredible opportunity for churches to reach out to a community that has felt time and time again disregarded by the mainstream church, but what do churches do in response? They hang banners on their buildings that say "Yes on Prop. 8," which are strategically placed so they can be seen from freeways. What message are they sending to the marginalized in society? They are saying if you don't fit into our definition of what a good Christian looks like, you are not welcome. Jesus embraced those on the margins all throughout the Gospels, so why do churches find it so difficult? Churches need to embrace their neighbors, not ostracize them.

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