Through the global dialog and participation of thousands now, and millions in the future, we are reconstructing the core principles of our faith, those based on the gospel of Jesus, one founded on hope, love, and charity, healing, and building community.
Having initiated the process of deconstructing the idea in many people’s minds of Christians as wild-eyed Crusaders, we as liberals are also confronted with secular myths, in particular the myths of war. Even ardent, good, honest, hard-working liberals carry myths to justify war. The most common myth of war is that it is inevitable. Christians have many historical examples of love conquering the mightiest foes. Christ himself advocated peace, and even healed the ear of the Roman that was hewn. Ghandi drove out the British without firing a shot. Martin Luther King, Jr. inspired a nation to confront the evil of racism. The lone Chinese man stopped a tank in Tianamen square holding nothing but a briefcase.
Our task, as those inspired by a bold vision of peace, is to provide a viable path to end war forever. This path must adhere to non-violent, Christian means, otherwise the end will be for naught. As we have deconstructed the good and the bad in the past of Christianity and constructed a new future advocating for the ill, the hungry, the war weary, the aged, and the children, we will deconstruct the past myths of war and create a future of peace.
A Practical Plan for Peace – Global Incremental Mutually Verifiable Arms Reduction (GIMVAR)
Ending war will entail assiduous and sustained effort from people in all areas of society. Without question, peace is predicated on a widespread, grassroots movement from all parts of the globe in all areas of political, economic, and civil society. On the surface, a global citizens movement demanding peace seems untenable. After all, so many conflicts rage across the globe. We have violence in every continent. The Saudi government sends troops invade Bahrain to suppress the people’s call for justice. The Americans are in Iraq, Afghanistan and Yemen. Turkey is bombing the Kurds. We see war in Chechnya, and Somalia. We see the threat of war in Ossetia and Iran.
Nevertheless, wherever conflicts erupt the civilians want peace. One of the missions of this essay is to inspire Christians large and small, of all denominations, and of all nations to act upon that sentiment and take bold action to stop the wars in which their governments fight.
Global arms reduction has several components the most important of which is reducing the dollar amount of weapons exported and reducing the total volume of weapons produced. Massive, sustained citizen input will be required for these demands to even be heard by most governments. It is our job as Christians to make sure that they do.
To be successful, the transition away from a war economy will need to be incremental. Obviously, a huge shift in military power will create power vacuums that may cause some to see an advantage in another’s weakness. Moving in a methodical, incremental fashion prevents a sudden shift in power and allows nations to make adjustments.
Secondly, those involved in the armaments industry will need to be incentivized to change their manufacturing and production to new industries such as green technologies, labor intensive industries such as organic farming, renovating homes to be energy efficient, the construction of green transportation and communications infrastructure. Providing a transition path for industry will reduce, but not eliminate, institutional resistance.
Verifying that those you fear are also playing by the rules is the critical component to the long-term success of this program for peace. As Reagan said, “Trust, but verify.” Taking incremental steps, agreed upon by all parties, helps to improve the process of verification. Governments and inspectors can verify that all parties have met their obligations before proceeding to the next step.
Both incentives and punitive measures will need to be invoked to ensure that countries participating in the process toward peace satisfy the agreements they have made. Incentives could include interest free loans, or simply grants for building food security, or developing industry, or water conservation and soil preservation. Punitive measures could include economic sanctions, freezing of assets, or the denial of participation in athletic competitions.
Any punitive measures must be non-violent, for peace cannot be attained by violent means.
Arms reduction will need to first focus on heavy armaments such as jet fighters, bombers, tanks, personnel carriers, artillery, warships, submarines, and other heavy weaponry. These types of armaments can be most readily identified as having one and only one purpose: killing human beings.
Small arms will also have to be included. While one may argue that small arms are necessary to protect one’s family, or to protect the people against the overreaching power of the state, reducing the number of small arms exported and imported is a critical component to attaining peace.
As Christians, we can choose to accept the myth that ‘war is inevitable’, or we can start taking concrete steps toward embracing our neighbors, loving our enemies, and eliminating the scourge of humankind – war.