Photo by Dirk van der Duim
ELCA members have traditionally longed for two kinds of peace: the one that is available now (commonly called inner peace, or baptismal freedom in Lutheran lingo) and the one we have not yet seen (world peace).
The peace we see now is everywhere. I find it most in baby giggles, cozy winter cuddles with a beloved pet and soy hot chocolates. Others find it in exercise, meditation and homemade pies.
These are the roads to inner peace we are willing to admit to in public. They come from virtue, spiritual practice, communal singing that syncs our breathing, or what I like to call an Oprah lifestyle.
The ‘other’ inner peace
Just as Lutheran (perhaps even more so), is the inner peace that comes from enjoying our less dignified moments.
This subject is a minefield for communal conversation about Lutheran tradition and daily living.
Some grumbly Lutherans will argue that our baptismal freedom calls us to behave better (i.e., we are free from, not free to sin). Other grumbly Lutherans will argue that our baptismal freedom is essentially a get out of hell free card that allows us to “sin boldly” (i.e., nothing we can ever do separates us from the love of God. Period.).
Quoting from the Lutheran pastor catch phrase hall of fame, I say: “It’s both!”
Having said that, I think the stereotypical “nice Lutherans” among us should embrace the idea that we are allowed to enjoy our vices. Try to reduce the amount of harm on yourself and others when you can — but it’s not required.
A word of warning and apology is required here, since Luther’s beloved vice (anger) may have helped his personal inner peace and kept some Lutheran’s in Germany safe, but it very clearly led to war and became the voice of the Holocaust. I say this to highlight that our personal journey toward inner peace can thwart world peace.
While I have seen moments of inner peace, I have never seen world peace. Despite John Lennon’s amazing song, I can’t even imagine it. There are so many ancient wounds, complicated histories and political complexities beyond solving in a blog like this. Then, there is also all the ways religion fuels both peace and conflict.
What I do know is that work done to address poverty and improve education is always a step toward creating a more peaceful world.
When I visited with the staff of the ELCA churchwide organization a few weeks ago, I began to understand that the Malaria Campaign ought to be seen not only as important health care but also as one way the ELCA is developing pathways to a more peaceful world.
Addressing very real poverty and education issues in Africa, the campaign also provides much needed education in the United States. Enabling congregations to learn how they can get involved, it also illustrates how a seemingly small thing like nets can stabilize fragile communities.
Strategy of nonviolence
While it is more fun to end on a “hooray for us” note, I would be remiss if I ended the conversation on world peace here. Poverty is clearly not the only issue. Particularly in this militaristic age where the most financially powerful purchase the weapons that fuel conflict all over the globe. Often we hear of secret drone strikes that make war around the globe less and less visible.
In response we must take up the strategies of nonviolence leaders from the 1960s and dramatize (making bigger and more visible) the injustices in our world. Yes, in order to have eyes that can see peace, we must have eyes that can see war and conflict.
This is exactly what we seek to do each Sunday when the Scriptures are read. We echo the voices, the most delicious coming from Isaiah, that have been a part of Jewish, Muslim and Christian calls for world peace.
We must add our lives, voices and visions to this history. Specifically, we must remind God of God’s promise to bring justice and visible peace to our world.
We can enjoy having God on our side, ready to vanquish things that jeopardize our safety. But above all, we must seek to become a part of God’s churning in the world, sync into God’s timing and make visible God’s vision of peace in our lives and for all of God’s beloved (which is absolutely everyone and everything).
Megan M. Rohrer is an ELCA pastor called by five congregations and has been a missionary to the homeless in San Francisco since 2002.