Above: The Broken Rifle, Symbol of Resistance to War
Image in the Public Domain
January 1 is the Feast of the Holy Name of Jesus. My standard practice on my Ecumenical Calendar of Saints’ Days and Holy Days is to reserve a date upon which such a Biblical feast falls for that feast. So, for example, March 25 is the Feast of the Annunciation. I list no other feast for March 25, although a host of Roman Catholic saints have feasts on that date. I make this exception to my rule, however.
On April 11, 1963, Pope John XXIII (now St. John XXIII) issued the encyclical Pacem in Terris (Peace on Earth). In it he argued for, among other things, economic justice, freedom to worship God according to one’s conscience, the maintenance of the common good, the proper treatment of minorities, and respect for the rights of refugees. He also condemned militarism and encouraged the recognition of human interdependence. Pope Paul VI (now Blessed Paul VI), inspired by the encyclical, observed the first World Peace Day on January 1, 1968. Pontiffs have used the occasion of World Peace Day to speak on subjects such as those elaborated upon in Pacem in Terris.
In the Law of Moses one finds timeless principles and culturally specific examples thereof. Among these timeless principles are the following:
- We depend upon God for everything;
- We depend upon each other;
- We are responsible to each other;
- We are responsible for each other; and
- We have no right to exploit each other.
These ethics inform Pacem in Terris and World Peace Day. The fact that so many of we human beings need reminding of them often speaks negatively of us. We have a long history of violating them and of justifying our behavior to ourselves and others, often invoking the name of God in the process. Yes, sometimes we have no good choices and must choose between lesser and greater evils, but, short of those occasions, we have a moral obligation to refrain from committing certain acts. Some deeds are always wrong; torture is among them. Most wars are unnecessary, but some are necessary. Although most violence is wrong, sometimes the use of violence is morally defensible. Stating principles is easy, but contextualizing actions is more complicated.
One final note: I am writing and publishing these words on November 11, the anniversary of the armistice at the end of World War I. This is an example of serendipity. Certainly this is an especially appropriate day to think about matters of war, peace, and the devastating consequences of the short-sighted actions of those in authority upon civilians and military personnel alike.
KENNETH RANDOLPH TAYLOR
NOVEMBER 11, 2016 COMMON ERA
THE FEAST OF SAINT MARTIN OF TOURS, ROMAN CATHOLIC BISHOP
THE FEAST OF ANNE STEELE, FIRST IMPORTANT ENGLISH HYMN WRITER
Lord God, accept our humble confession of the wrongs we have done,
the injustice to which we have been party,
and the countless denials of your mercy we have expressed.
Turn us toward the love offered in your Son,
and cleanse us by your grace, through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
Almighty God, in penitence we come before you, acknowledging the sin that is within us.
We share the guilt of all those who, bearing the name Christian,
slay their fellow human beings because of race or faith or nation.
Forgive us and change us by your love, that your word of hope
may be heard clearly throughout the world,
through Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord. Amen.
1 John 1:5-2:2
—Evangelical Lutheran Worship (2006), page 62