By Deacon Charlie deGravelles
BATON ROGUE — Scholars in the still young but expanding field of peace and conflict studies distinguish between two kinds of peace. “Negative peace” is the term for those relatively rare periods when there is no declared war but during which all sides are planning and preparing what will inevitably be the next armed conflict. In his book, War Is a Force that Gives Us Meaning, American journalist and war correspondent Chris Hedges notes an astounding fact — discovered through the calculations of the historian, Will Durant: In 3,300 years of recorded human history, only 29 of those years have been without a war somewhere on the planet.
To reduce the scale to my own lifetime, in all of my 63 years, there has been one or more wars raging somewhere on the planet. Even in my own country, there have been only a few scant years — mainly between the end of the Korean War and the beginning of our involvement in Vietnam — when we haven’t been engaged in open armed conflict somewhere.
I’ve heard this kind of peace, negative peace, described as “perpetual pre-hostility,” and Jesus alludes to such a peace in the Gospel of Luke. “What king,” Jesus asks, “going out to wage war against another king, will not sit down first and consider whether he is able with ten thousand to oppose the one who comes against him with twenty thousand? If he cannot, then, while the other is still far away, he sends a delegation and asks for the terms of peace.”
The point of Jesus’ illustration is not necessarily about war (though military tacticians should certainly take note); it’s about the importance of careful consideration, of “counting the cost,” of understanding possible consequences before you make an important decision. And wouldn’t you know it, we, as a country, are in just such a period of “pre-hostility” as I write this, carefully calculating how to react to the use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government. (May God help us in those calculations.)
Jesus is always a realist, as his illustration suggests: Don’t be stupid and get your soldiers slaughtered if you know you can’t win. Make the best deal you can, buy some time, and when you can muster thirty or forty thousand to their twenty thousand, then you can think about war or at least better terms of peace. Read More…