Panelists offer practical suggestions for peacemaking | Print |

By Patricia Heys
Cooperative Baptist Fellowship

Photo: Joel McLendon

ATLANTA-David Gushee and Stan Hastey offered Baptists ways to promote peacemaking during a special interest session Feb. 1 at the celebration of a New Baptist Covenant.

Gushee, a professor at Mercer University's McAfee School of Theology in Atlanta and recent author of The Future of Faith in American Politics, talked about just war theory and its seven criteria. He also outlined the 10 best practices of peacemaking from Glen Stassen's book Just Peacemaking.

"The hidden assumption I want to put on the table is peace is what God wants, because Jesus renounced violence, founded a movement of peace, said, 'Blessed are the peacemakers,' " Gushee said. "Peace is normative. It is what we should be working for. War is a reflection of sin, expresses sin, advances sin. War is organized murder. It may sometimes be a necessary evil. It is never something to be celebrated."

Gushee offered five things Christians could do to promote peacemaking-learn the criteria of just war theory, teach about the issues in church, establish a peacemaking group in church or add a dimension to current group, read and listen to diverse news sources and sharpen your critical edge as a follower of Christ.

"I think it is our responsibility to get out of our information niches, where we only listen to media we agree with," Gushee said. "I think we also need to read international news sources. Pay attention to what the U.N. is saying, pay attention to what missionaries and people on the ground are saying. Start with a bias for peace and against war."

Gushee acknowledged the historic nature of the Celebration in recognizing peacemaking as a moral issue and challenged people from all political parties to work together.

"We Baptists have a high view of the authority of the Bible, but we have lost the practice of dozen of passages about how you treat other people," Gushee said.

"The Bible teaches all kind of things about how we should pray for others, forgive others, love others. But we forgot how to love, especially those that are different from ourselves politically. I think that moral collapse is one of the legacies we are trying to undo at this meeting. I think recognizing the basic humanity of all people, caring for them, loving them, is not negotiable. It is who we are in Christ."

Stan Hastey, executive director of the Alliance of Baptists, focused on practical ways congregations can be involved in peacemaking. He mentioned 24 U.S. congregations that have established sister congregations in Cuba.

"It's an excellent example of citizen diplomacy," Hastey said. "It is one of the best ways of peacemaking-people to people, getting to know one other personally, getting to know one another's families, and-in our case-churches."

Hastey addressed the U.S. trade embargo with Cuba, calling it "economic warfare." He also encouraged other churches to establish relationships with congregations in Cuba and offered the resources of the Alliance of Baptists.

"The U.S. alone maintains this position of economic war against Cuba, with the objective of bringing such economic strain to the country that it brings an end to the regime," Hastey said. "What I want to suggest is that much more good is being done by those two dozen churches who are together bringing to bear citizen diplomacy."

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