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Monday, June 08, 2009

The Strive for Peace in Christianity, Part 3

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Christianity has a history of ultimately striving for peace, and yet the contrast and contradiction is that Christianity has a violent past, and is, perhaps, one of the most violent religions still practised.

 

In the early formative years of Christianity, Christians avoided conflict of all types, preferring to die rather then fight to defend themselves.


The ways and means associated with the striving for peace in Christian history can be seen to be contradictory, both when compared to each other, but also when compared to teachings presented in the Bible.

 

This contrast was perhaps initially fuelled by the adoption of Christianity as the official religion of two of the largest empires in history, the Roman and Byzantine. It could be said that the marriage between a large militarily based political body and a religion promoting the concept of peace at a number of levels, led to interpretations of religious texts and ideas that better suited political aspirations. Building on the concept of righteous anger, the concept of the “Just War” was used for political purposes.

 

This concept of a “Just War”, meant, effectively, that a Christian could engage in military conflict, so long as it was “justified”. The boundaries between political aspirations, motivations, and religious justification of war, and other conflicts, have throughout history often been blurred.

 

Christianity has long been used as a tool in the justification of wars, not least the crusades, which occurred in the period between 1095 and 1291 AD. Other acts of extreme violence sanctioned by various Church organisations include the Spanish, and other inquisitions.

In contrast, many Christian groups have consistently lobbied for peace related initiatives, including, anti war movements, prison reform, factory reform, civil rights, and many other initiatives.

 

These two facets of Christian history appear to be at odds with each other, one, being effectively, Church sanctioned bigotry, and xenophobia. The other being anti-discriminative action, which was effectively in direct contrast with actions such as the Spanish inquisition, which were based upon discrimination of people due to their faith.

 

 

The striving for peace in historical Christianity, appears to have been largely governed by the idea, that to create peace, everyone had to practice the Christian faith. This perhaps based on an interpretation of the comment by Jesus that he who is not for me is against me as said in Luke 11:23.This arguably, actually worsened relations between Christians and people of other Religions or faiths, causing the exact opposite of the desired effect.

 

In conclusion, when we look at the historical record of Christianity, the spiritual aspirations for peace as portrayed in the Bible, have often not been reached in the actual application of Christianity as a religion.

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