Monday, June 8, 2015

Unlearning War

The vision of the Peaceable Kingdom was a popular one among the Old Testament prophets. They probably all knew it, and two of them (or their followers) incorporated it into their writings: the first Isaiah (chapter 2) and Micah (chapter 4). The prophets envisioned a time when armies would stop fighting wars and instead raise food for their people: “Beat your swords into plowshares.” This image is just as powerful today as it was thousands of years ago, as depicted in a statue at the United Nations.

But this vision is not something that we can all of a sudden decide to do. We cannot go directly from a war mindset to an attitude of peace. We have to learn to think in a new way. Both Isaiah and Micah say, “Nation will not lift up sword against nation, neither will they learn war anymore.” Soldiers cannot create an effective agricultural economy by poking holes in the ground with their swords to plant seeds. It takes a wholesale economic restructuring, in which industry produces plowshares instead of swords, or better yet, recycles the now-useless implements of war into the equipment of peace.

Unfortunately, we can go the other way also. Because of our violent human nature, bequeathed to us by evolution, we can easily slip back into a mindset of war, without having to retrain our brains. The Old Testament prophet Joel did this (chapter 3), when he envisioned a time when people would beat their plowshares into swords.

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