We act and pray for a world without war, the absence of violence in all of its manifestations. We put down the sword, we blockade the nuclear bases and arms fairs, we go over the fences, we withdraw our taxes, we picket the embassies. We live in community, we refuse to use violence even if faced with violence ourselves, we refuse military service. We resist the ‘Pax Romana’, and through our actions, we show how our governments and economies are addicts of violence and war.
But like an addict, we have to show too that the mere absence of violence doesn’t mean we have overcome the temptation to violence, to death – I cannot believe that this is all that the peace of Christ is. Even when we are not ourselves at war, or behaving with physical violence we repeatedly, everyday, in thought and word and deed, demonstrate the power that violence and death have over us. We swear at drivers as they narrowly miss us on our bicycles, we legitimise our ongoing participation in systems of injustice, we fail to consider the impacts of our actions on others. The peace of Christ, to be born again, is to live a way of life, where the culture of death has no power – it cannot simply mean the absence of something (overt, active violence). It is a way which negates not only the violence of war and global economic injustice, but also means we encounter – and renounce – our own addiction to the culture of death that feeds so much suffering in ourselves, our relationships and in our communities.
When we put ourselves in the way of the war machine, I believe we are creating a schism between the world of violence and death, and the ways of peace, love and life that we sometimes see glimpses of appear that bit more possible. The world of violence, which normally fits around us – like a glove – so easily that we don’t even recognise it, suddenly doesn’t quite work any more. Like a rocket choosing a new trajectory, we begin to move away, onto a different path. As we continue on this journey, violence will continue lack the operable power over us that it once had, and we will continue to be led on our search for something more life affirming, a way of love.