What would a world without war look like?

Life is not Jeopardy. We do need the question first. And we need the right question, to arrive at an answer. And the question is: What would a world without war look like? (This is a question Jesuit priest John Dear asks all the time, and some of the following thoughts are inspired by him.)

Thing is, we need to envision a world without war in order to move towards peace.

bombwashing Our eyes, so accustomed to violence, our imaginations, dull to all possibilities except new ways to exterminate, and our vision of peace, as coming only through redemptive violence, all this is self-annihilation.

Our survival, our salvation, is in a special kind of knowing blindness that only comes from staring into the radiance of peace. From this comes new sight.

Am I sounding like an old hippy? There’s more.

I’m reminded of John Lennon’s Imagine. Lennon’s point was that nothing changes without imagining the change. Peace, not simply the absence of war, needs to be imagined.

And now for the Christians… Ghandi said somewhere that Jesus was the most active practitioner of nonviolence in the history of the world and the only people who don’t know that Jesus was non-violent are Christians. And why is that? Because we still believe in a schizophrenic God of love and wrath, grace and sacrifice, mercy and retribution.

How about this? Violence, born of twisted mimetic desire–which is a way of saying you are less than me and anything you might be or have is at my disposal–is the root evil. Jesus came to release us of that. How then is it possible to be a Christian and support the Iraq war, any war, any violence, organized, state sponsored, whatever, and be a Jesus-follower at the same time?

Please tell me Franklin Graham, Charles Stanley, and possibly every other professor at the Dallas Theological Seminary, how else you read “I desire mercy not sacrifice.” Time we all “go and learn what this means.”


  1. Every OTHER prof at Dallas Theological Seminary? Which one of those two men–Franklin Graham or Charles Stanley–were you thinking taught there?

  2. Sorry. The sentence is confusing. I don’t believe either Graham of Stanley taught at DTS. My point was simply that DTS, molded by the late John Walvoord, a staunch Dispensationalist, would quite naturally have many professors who subscribe to a loving yet apocalyptic, wrathful God. This is the God we slip in to justify our own violence, our “wars against terror.”

  3. That’s the God of the Bible, for sure, the God we use to justify violence, even though he doesn’t remotely resemble the God in Jesus…but what I really wanted to comment on is the other point you made: we can’t realize peace without imagining it. I think that’s true, and I think our problem is that we’ve forgotten how to imagine much of anything because we’re too restless to spend time imagining or dreaming, or even to stop and listen to the music of others’ imaginings….mostly, until we go to something like the folk festival or read GrowMercy and are reminded to stop and smell the roses, listen to our hearts, imagine a different world, give hope a little space to breathe now and then….

  4. It’s not as simple as this. We can’t base our theology on a song by John Lennon! I hate war, but I support the troops. I hate war, but I am daily grateful for living in a country where I am not beaten for believing and loving Jesus. I would fight for that. I would fight for truth. And I would fight for a God that loves justice AND mercy. Schozophrenic? No. Paradoxial? Absolutely. Mysterious, and enveloped in layers, I will spend the rest of my life learning about my Heavenly Father. And the rest I shall see on my knees humbled at the foot of His Throne.

  5. There is nevertheless, some good theology in John Lennon’s song. His song, of course, was Lennon’s way of fighting for peace. I would also “fight” for freedom. But I would never want to kill for it.
    Should we kill for truth? Kill for justice and mercy? If the incarnation is indeed true, if Jesus is the full expression of God, then God has no desire for you to kill for him. Asks instead for love of enemies. No paradox here.

  6. I know that God has no desire for me to kill for him. But aren’t we allowed to protect ourselves from those who believe Allah commands them to kill us?

  7. Yes, providing we do no harm. A shield but no sword. Our way of protecting ourselves has always been to kill before being killed. And to do so in the name of God. Radical Islam has no monopoly on “redemptive” violence. But you ask, is it possible to protect ourselves, keep from being harmed, without harming. Probably not.

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