Peace on Earth?December 04, 2016
A song lyric in church this morning particularly stood out.
And in despair I bowed my head
There is no peace on earth I said
For hate is strong and mocks the song
Of peace on earth, good will to men
I pondered the sentiment, which captured well my own thoughts. As I lingered there, the choir marched ahead to the concluding stanza of hope. But I wasn't sure I could sing that next verse quite as truthfully.
We see a rise in hate crimes across our nation. We see violence in Syria, South Sudan, and the Philippines. We see refugees drowning in the sea while politicians demonize them to gain power. We see violence and hatred.
Yes, it seems there is no peace on earth, that hate is strong and mocks the song.
But the poet got it right. We must recognize and grieve how things are before we can sing of hope for a new reality. Hope doesn't deny reality, but it becomes an act of resistance as we refuse to accept that things should be the way they currently are. Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann explained in his book Reality, Grief, Hope that "the work of hope is to conjure and imagine an alternative world now to be given 'from elsewhere.'" Such a dream, he added, becomes "a guide and an experiment to seek a new way of living in the world."
Consider a new effort by Doctors of the World UK. They took common images of peaceful Christmas scenes and added a twist so we can understand the violence confronting people in those biblical lands today. They grieve our present reality as they hope for new world. So they created some Christmas cards with a signs of our violence. Missiles, drones, and bomb blasts remind us we cannot claim there is yet peace on earth (and those of us in the U.K. and the U.S. are responsible for creating some of this violence).
It is not enough to sing of a "silent night" or admire the beautiful lights throughout our neighborhood. We must be honest about our world so we can grieve the violence and hope for a new reality. We need dreamers who can help us confront the reality of our violence and hatred and then help us hear the bells declaring "peace on earth, good will to men." Perhaps I'm almost ready to now sing that last stanza.
Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
"God is not dead, nor doth he sleep;
The wrong shall fail, the right prevail,
With peace on earth, good will to men."