“Peace on earth will come to stay, when we live Christmas every day.”
--Helen Steiner Rice
“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God.”
“War is as outmoded as cannibalism, chattel slavery, blood-feuds and dueling—an insult to God and man—a daily crucifixion of Christ.”
Now we are in the season of Christmas. Celebrations are being held, carols are being sung and prayers are being prayed (not to mention consumers going amok and Atkins dieters falling off the wagon). And in this season many of us honor the birth of Jesus of Nazareth.
I have heard those who proclaim that this is a nation founded on Christian principles. I have heard President Bush assert that Jesus is his favorite philosopher. But when we look at where our government, in our names, puts its attention and a massive portion of its resources—implementing a strategy of preemptively striking our theoretical foes, maintaining a formidable fighting force to assert our military pre-eminence around the world and engaging in an endless war against terrorism—can we really claim to uphold the tenets of the Prince of Peace?
Some have said that you can determine your priorities by looking at your checkbook ledger. So let’s look at a few of the stubs in our nation’s 2002 checkbook courtesy of the Office of Management and Budget.
- Military spending: $319 billion
- Education: $77 billion
- Transportation: $55 billion
- Environment: $27 billion
- HIV/AIDS: $14.7 billion
- Peace Corps: $277 million
It’s projected that total military spending from 2000 through the end of 2008 will amount to $3.2 trillion. A trillion here, a trillion there. Pretty soon we’re talking about real money, even by government standards.
As much as we talk of “peace on earth,” our actions make our words ring hollow. If we were really serious about creating peace in our time, wouldn’t we be putting a more substantial portion of our resources toward that end? As long as we put our focus on kicking our real or imagined adversaries’ butts rather than reconciliation, on glorifying young warriors rather than honoring youth who choose a path of peace, we will continue to create death and destruction . . . for others and for ourselves. Let’s face it; we’ve got a lot of guns and soldiers. We’re going to wind up shooting somebody eventually. And as long as we keep making the same kinds of choices, we’re going to keep getting the same results. To expect otherwise is insanity.
President Bush and his administration ignored a huge opportunity after 9/11. Immediately following this horrendous blow, the people of the world were with us in mind and spirit. If we had pursued our higher calling and sought understanding and peace with the peoples of the world, while going after the perpetrators through legal means, we would have won loyal allies and advocates for our cause. Instead, however, the Bush administration chose to rant and rave and unleash the weaponry we’d stockpiled, as if using our weapons of mass destruction would somehow bring us peace, as if war could stop terrorism when it’s obvious that war itself is an act of terrorism. And now men and women of the U.S. are dying on the battlefields and Iraqis and Afghanis are being mutilated and slaughtered in their own land.
Moreover, by our belligerent actions, we have created millions of zealous enemies in the Muslim world and spawned thousands of fervent new recruits for the hostile groups that wish us harm. And while we might imagine we’re making ourselves more secure by lashing out at them, our vengeful actions have had the opposite effect, considerably increasing the likelihood that we’ll be attacked again—overseas and here within our borders.
Tit for tat. Got you last. Just look where such a policy has gotten the Palestinians and the Israelis during the past 50 or so years, with no end in sight. Jesus said, “Those who live by the sword, will die by the sword.” This dictum spares none of the sword wielders, not even us Americans. Jesus also said, “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.” Maybe mercy would be a commendable commitment for us all as we celebrate Christ’s birthday this year.
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