Response to Peace and the State, Warren Turner

When I was invited to address the Peace Rally, representing the Rochester, Minnesota Ministerial Association, it gave me a unique problem: How could I, a clear-cut Humanist, represent the Catholics, the mainline Protestants, and the Jewish congregation? Was there a core message? Was there a statement that should be made by religious leaders that couldn’t just as well be made by a variety of other concerned citizens? Moreover, what could be said to the very, very pluralistic audience that would speak to their religious sensibilities? In short, was there a uniquely religious message that had completely non-sectarian imperatives?

It was the search for answers to the above questions that led me to the three main points of this paper. (In spite of the fact that a pundit once warned me that Unitarians ought never to have “three” points in a talk.  Perhaps “one” representing “Unity” or “four or more” standing for “Diversity,” but never a “Trinity.” So today, I guess I’ll have to say one or two is not quite enough, but three will definitely be plenty.)

So the thesis of this address has three parts:

  1. The Christian Church is into Peace in a big way;
  2. The movement is based on some special, but universal truths; and
  3. This upsurge calls Humanists to become Peacemakers.

I asked a couple of ministers in the Twin Cities for a little bibliography on the subject of peace. What I got was a mountain of material. I soon discovered that the Christian church is into peace in a big way. Things are happening in respectable society now that would have been only found amongst radical peace-niks just a few years ago.

One note of disclaimer here, however. When I speak of “The Christian church,” I’m obviously making a distinction between mainline Catholics and Protestants and the Far Right, born-again types. There is a very significant number of national Christian leaders who preach a militaristic civil religion in which peace means the absence of war while we develop a stronger and more successful armed force. The Democratic woman from Queens was on to something when she questioned Reagan’s Christianity. She found out what it was when President, the darling of the National Association of Evangelicals, started joking about “starting the bombing in five minutes.”

On the other hand, there are different messages being given by some Christians and what makes that even more significant is that speaking against war is a relatively new turn. In the first years after World War II, during the embryonic stages of the arms race, the established Church simply reflected what was happening in the government.

As Alan Geyer, executive director of the Churches’ Center for Theological and Public Policy in Washington, D.C. states:

Most of the peace pronouncements of mainline churches for 20 years accommodated [the bipartisan] consensus [that dominated U.S. foreign policy.] Church peace programs were preoccupied with rallying support for the UN and foreign aid which typically meant rallying around presidents of either party who were beset by a recalcitrant congress.[1]

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1.  Charles P. Lutz & Jerry L. Folk with other contributors, Peace ways (Minneapolis: Augsburg Publishing House, 1983), Page 180.