The "Peaceful Kingdom"
I don’t like the language of pacifism either because it’s so passive. What I like to talk about is peace, and peace is hard work in which oftentimes conflict is required. It involves acknowledging the violence we often misidentify as peace. What’s important is how a community becomes shaped by Christ in such a way that we are able to reject the falsehoods that lead us to use coercion. (The Plough, 2016)
Okay, maybe The Reverend Dr. Stanley Hauerwas is a bit too brilliant for his own good and maybe some of us need an interpreter to know what he is saying above. Dr. Hauerwas is truly one of the most amazingly intelligent, sensitive, and respected theologians around right now, and has been for many years, even if you have never heard of him. He is what many would call a “pacifist,” meaning he does not believe in the use of violence in any form as a way of resolving conflict (personal, familial, or societal). He does not necessarily refer to himself as a pacifist but has much to say on how we often use coercive tactics to bring people around to our way of thinking or simply eliminating that “other” as a threat altogether.
We have once again been challenged by the awareness that black Americans and, to varying degrees, all people of color, continue to struggle with and against systemic, institutional racism that is bolstered and strengthened by (mostly) internal, maybe even subconscious bias on the part of so many in the white majority in our country. The old nemesis, like the Ku Klux Klan, overt racism, is less an issue than internalized, subtle forms that keep people of color from realizing equal treatment in our country. Recently protests, many of which turned violent (perpetrated by black and white agitators alike, it would seem), have brought a great deal of attention to the anger that lies underneath, now revealed that drives people who would have a full part in our society, and those who would deny that kind of inclusion of all God’s children into our one human family.
Hauerwas, echoing Jesus’ sentiments in His Sermon on the Mount (Matthew 5-7), proclaims that any justice we can imagine cannot be brought about by coercion or violence; if it attempts to do so, it will ultimately fail. But even if violence seems to succeed in bringing about change, it will have nothing to do with God’s justice, or God’s desire for unity in the kingdom He has built and implores us to live into. We already know that violence or fear tactics (i.e. coercion) that white hate groups have used for years - from the KKK, to Timothy McVeigh/white militias to formal government, at times – do not serve the Kingdom of God nor do they uphold any ethical and certainly no Christian ethos. Peace is something that, as Hauerwas said above, takes much more strength, patience, and hope than resorting to name-calling, anger, going it alone, and certainly violence does. White Americans must look inside themselves to see how and where our own bias toward people may be lurking and how they are part of the problem. White folks who would be partners in work toward racial equity and blessing must be willing to hear uncomfortable truths, too. Black Americans must not only be willing to forgive the marginalization and racism they have suffered on this continent for more than 400 years (only Christ himself could ask so much of our brothers and sisters) and to see white Americans as partners in this process of reconciliation, truth-telling, and the hard work of healing. Peace and love, grounded in the hope of God in His forgiving love in Christ, is the only thing, truly, that will ever bridge the racial divide that threatens to enslave us all.