My peace I leave with you - love conquers all
Responding to the case against a Christian pacifism made by Network Norfolk columnist James Knight, magistrate and Quaker John Myhill argues that loves conquers all.
Can we love, and belong, and feel useful, even when other people do such dreadful things?
Is there a war in Afghanistan? Certainly lots of people are killed, and their relatives must feel devastated. But, in the UK and USA you are more likely to have lost relatives killed on our roads, than in Afghanistan. In contrast, thousands of Afghan people have died.
Like the Iraq conflict, the invading troops have slaughtered with quick precision.
Whether you think of the surgeon’s knife, or Genghis Khan, will depend on the long-term outcome. I think it was a war, because neither side won.
Is there such a war going on inside you? Certainly you suffer a huge daily invasion of culture and society, entering your mind. Probably there are plenty of fifth columnists within, trying to win your heart and mind for the invaders. But it is a war that Love cannot lose; because Love accepts everything that tries to destroy it, and grows stronger from the bombardment, knowing the victory of love is inevitable.
Do you feel guilty? Those of us who protested against the war did not stop it. We did not even manage to prevent it from dominating the media, and taking people’s minds from more practical things they could be doing. But I do not feel guilty, because I know that people who have experienced war make the best pacifists, and so a new generation of peace activists have been brought to life.
Some will feel guilty because others have died in their place. They will work to persuade children that war is heroic and noble. It is those who feel guilty who will goad the next generation into wars to come. It is they who need to accept “the peace the world cannot give”, the knowledge that they are forgiven and must forgive themselves.
For a couple of years before Iraq, I felt very dissatisfied, guilty at my good fortune, feeling trapped in the pleasures of the repeating seasons, fearful of gradually becoming less and less able to achieve change or even maintain my current simple lifestyle.
I dreamt of a total change, living in a new country, changing my way of life radically, as I did when I moved here in 1985. Then came the war, and I recognised the naked horror of what had been simmering in military minds for a generation. I realised that most of my activities could be understood as minor attempts to run away from my simple life, from the person that I am, from the Peace that I have.
So I have resolved to do nothing, rather than run away from what I know needs doing. I will cease running to others in order to hide my loneliness. Instead I will enjoy the contentment that comes when I am alone. The sunshine of September allowed me to appreciate the trees and birdsong of this paradise, which has changed so little during my lifetime.
I have spent a long while in confusion, and that is a very good place to be, much better than the certainty of the know-it-all. Confusion is not static. If it seems so, I seek out more confusion. For example the words of Jesus: “I come not to bring Peace but a sword.” This is not the Old Testament God who brings violence to separate the wheat from the chaff, nor even Jesus being prophetic, recognising that Truth will inevitably bring out violence in others. Rather it is that War makes violence obvious, and makes us draw away from it.
There is always violence, in social pressures, in bureaucracy, in bullying; in demands of job, family and friends. There are so many forces to resist. Jesus provides a sword to cut through all the things, which would otherwise prevent us from responding with Love and Truth.
John Myhill is a Norfolk-based Quaker, magistrate and former chair of Norwich Central Churches Together.
To read James Knight's column making the case against pacifism, click here
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