There’s another way toward peace

Posted 1/17/20

The Gospel of Matthew paints a picture of King Herod as a lying, conniving, egomaniac (see Matthew, chapter 2). Other historical sources tell us this ancient king was even worse.

Herod was granted …

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There’s another way toward peace

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The Gospel of Matthew paints a picture of King Herod as a lying, conniving, egomaniac (see Matthew, chapter 2). Other historical sources tell us this ancient king was even worse.

Herod was granted the official title “King of Judea” by the Roman Senate, although in the history books, he is often known as Herod the Great and you know he would have loved that. He owed his rise to power to his father who was buddies with J.C. — that is, Julius Caesar. When Herod became king, he executed his own sons because they posed a threat to his rule.

But in the time of Herod in Jerusalem there were also traveling star-gazers from modern-day Iran — yes, Iran. These wise men were warned to avoid Herod after visiting the Christ child; and so, they went home “by another way” (Matthew 2:12). As a Christian, I recall that a certain baby boy grew up to promise, “I am the way” (John 14:6). The way of the Prince of Peace is against the cycle of retributive violence and for peacemaking — it is a way of diplomacy, not war. We, who choose to follow Jesus, are called to speak the truth of this “other way” to our elected officials and to all world leaders.

Leaders of many denominations, including the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.), have joined in signing a nonpartisan message to our elected officials: “A Faith Statement on Escalating Violence with Iran.” This statement includes the following: “We know that human flourishing entails breaking cycles of violence, being courageous peacemakers, and focusing on the root causes of violence.”

But in our world of maniacal modern Herods, is such a statement only a fantasy? To quote Joni Mitchell, is peace only a dream that some of us had?

Returning to those ancient Iranians, they were famously guided to the Christ child by a star in the heavens. But they were prompted to avoid Herod and go “another way” by a dream (Matt 2:12). In January, we remember another man who also had a dream.

Addressing a quarter of a million people in 1963 from the steps of the Lincoln Monument, Martin Luther King Jr. had actually finished his prepared remarks and was preparing to leave the podium when Mahalia Jackson, legendary Gospel singer, called to him, “Martin, tell them about your dream.” And so, the famous “I Have a Dream” speech was unscripted and, I believe, divinely inspired.

As violence escalates between our country and Iran, now is a time for making the dream of peace a reality unless we wake up to discover we are living a nightmare. Instead of the usual drumbeat of war, let us ask our elected officials to go off script and seek an inspired vision. Instead of demonizing an entire people in a country, let us search for individual stories of grace under duress, which show us how other people are actually a lot like us. And, with a healthy dose of cheerful humility, let us ask of ourselves to go off the partisan script of pointing fingers at the other side. Let us lead our country walking back the bellicose rhetoric and walking in another way.

I am neither ignorant nor naïve about the challenges posed by hostile powers and principalities. But I still have hope that we can avoid further violence and the spiral into yet another war. As MLK preached, “Let us not wallow in the valley of despair, I say to you today, my friends. Though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.” Following this dream, people of good faith from different religions and creeds can work together to seek another way — the holy way of peace.

Andrew Taylor-Troutman is the poet pastor of Chapel in the Pines Presbyterian Church and the author of the book “Gently Between the Words.”


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