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Tuesday, December 06, 2005

The sermon at church yesterday was about peace. Peace, of course, is not just the absence of conflict. The preacher said you can't have peace without justice, and that's true but it's not the whole story either.

William F. Buckley, in Happy Days Were Here Again, had this to say about John Lennon's "Imagine":

Imagine there's no countries
It isn't hard to do
Nothing to kill or die for
And no religion too
Imagine all the people
Living life in peace.

"Well, we certainly want to imagine a world in which everyone lives in peace, but you see, that is only possible in a world in which people are willing to die for causes. There'd have been peace for heaven knows (assuming heaven exists) how long in the South, except that men were willing to die to free the slaves, and Hitler would have died maybe about the time that John Lennon did, at Berchtesgarden, at age ninety-one, happy in a Jewless Europe."

So is peace really the most important thing? THE most important thing? Patrick Henry famously said, "Is life so dear, or peace so sweet, as to be purchased at the price of chains and slavery? ... Give me liberty, or give me death." (Ironically, he was himself a slave owner, and he felt funny about that, but not funny enough to do anything about it.)

Suppose your neighbor was beating his toddler in his front yard - would you walk over and make him stop, or would you go in your house and shut your door, and tell youself, "After all, the important thing is for me to live in peace with my neighbor."

In a marriage, sooner or later one has to decide how much of his or her partner's bad temper, etc., to put up with silently to stay peaceful, and at what point he must speak up and risk conflict in order to adjust the relationship. This also happens between sibs, and between parents and their adult offspring. It's usually considered a sign of mental ill-health to put up with too much abuse in order to "keep peace".

So what is peace, really? And how important is it? What should we be willing to give up for it? What should we not be willing to give up for it?

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