PEACE

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PEACE is harmony with the Creator. This is spiritual transformation. True peace starts with the Creator. Christians believe this. Muslims believe this. Most Indigenous Peoples believe this. Christians and Muslims definitely have to delineate and have dialogue with each other on how peace with God can be experienced. For us Christians, it’s through faith in Jesus Christ. For our Muslim friends, it’s through following the Five Pillars of Islam.[1]

Christians are called to worship God alone, not to worship God & Mammon. In the biblical narrative, the proper name of God, YHWH means I am who I am or I will be who I will be. In the Jewish tradition, the proper name of God must not be uttered; instead, they substitute the term The LORD to refer to YHWH. This is important because it emphasizes the reality that the Creator-God is eternally present but cannot be grasped totally by any human being. God is with us, immanent; but God is also transcendent and cannot be manipulated based on human wants and needs. To worship God means to acknowledge God to be at the highest position in our value system; thus, worth-ship. A community who worships YHWH recognizes that no persons or objects can be acknowledged to be at the highest position in the community’s value system and the community’s understanding of reality. For YHWH-worshippers, God is the Ultimate Reality. No attachments to persons and things, no other gods, no idolatry. Even our conception of God, including my notion of God as Ultimate Reality, even our most sophisticated theology, cannot be an object of attachment. The worship of God allows people to relate with God with freedom and liberation from any attachments.

The worship of Mammon necessarily puts money, wealth, and property as the highest position in the value system of a person or a community. Mammon-worship is necessarily expressed through an explicit and intentional attachment to things that, in the process, Mammonism actually reduces people to things by seeing their value merely as extrinsic—that is, based on exchange value. For example, in Mammon’s value system, human beings are seen as mere human resources measurable by their dollar amount per time of work. Thus, the worshippers of Mammon tend to thingify people. When this is the case, people are sacrificed to the altar of money, wealth, and property. It becomes easy to oppress and exploit people when they are seen as things.

Harmony with God is acknowledging God as the Ultimate Reality. The other aspects of our life’s reality are subordinated to God. The statement of Jesus in Matthew 6:24 is a call to reorder the lives of his followers based on the awareness that God is Ultimate Reality. In globalism, Mammon—wealth and property—is considered as the ultimate reality and the highest category in its value system. When a commitment to God is made, such commitment necessarily requires the reordering of wealth and property as subordinate to God-Reality. It means renouncing Mammon as god. In the same token, when a commitment to Mammon is made, then Mammon becomes the highest category in one’s value system and God is reordered as subordinate to wealth and power. Commitment to both is not possible. There can only be one Ultimate Reality. God-Reality does not allow other claims of ultimate reality; hence, other claimants are false claims. Commitment to false claims of reality is idolatry.

But even those who claim that they are committed to God-Reality and that wealth and power is subordinated to God-Reality, the temptation to equalize God and Mammon in our hearts is a day-to-day struggle. When we are lulled into this compromise, the tendency is idolatry. The value system of the church—its attitude towards wealth and property—must be evaluated in the light of God-Reality. The church’s value system, especially those who are in the affluent communities and societies, must go through this Reality check.

PEACE is harmony with our Being. This is psycho-social transformation. This is about our identity and security as a person. In salam-shalom perspective, the harmonious Being or Self—the wholeness of soul, life, personality, desire, appetite, emotion, and passion that characterize us as living beings—leads a person to live an Abundant Life. Abundant Life is a term used in the Gospel of John (10:10), which means living life in its fullness—spiritually, physically, socially, economically, and culturally—as exemplified by the life of Jesus. Abundant Life is not defined by what I have but by who I am, in the context of relationships.

The biblical understanding of the Self  is so rich, far richer than the reductionist understanding of the neo-classical economic view of the self. On one hand, self can be understood as soul, living being, life, and person. On the other hand, self can also be understood as desire, appetite, emotion, and passion. The former refers to the relational-spiritual aspects of our self that we share with other human beings and with God. The latter refers to basic instincts of the self that we share with animals. When the self is merely regarded as consumer-in-marketplace, we limit our “self-ness” to the basic animal instincts of our humanity. We are then reduced to only one side of our “self-ness.” Hence, we are alienated from our own self and we do not experience the shalom or wholeness of our being. This alienated self is the easy target of commercial advertisements that lull and manipulate human beings to become mere consumer-in-marketplace. Such advertisements usually appeal to the desire, appetite, emotion, and passion.

In shalom perspective, the harmonious Being—the wholeness of soul, life, personality, desire, appetite, emotion, and passion that characterize us as living beings—leads a person to live an Abundant Life. Abundant Life is a term used in the Gospel of John (Jn. 10:10), which means living life in its fullness—spiritually, physically, socially, economically, and culturally—in the context of the community. Abundant Life is not defined by what I have but by who I am in the context of relationships. A person experiencing an abundant life regards her or his identity as a person-in-community and not as mere consumer-in-marketplace.

In contrast, globalism sees the Self as an isolated individual consumer who is addicted to commodity. The meaning of one’s self is determined by how much goods and services one is able to consume in order to satisfy one’s needs and wants. Relationships are mere means to satisfy one’s needs and wants.

Many churches today, especially those who are focused on church-growth-at-all-cost, are offering programs that would satisfy the needs and wants of church members and adherents who behave more like religious consumers rather than God worshippers. Many church programs and activities are more focused on meeting the desire to experience a sort of “spiritual high.” This is not the calling of the church.

The church is the shalom-community that is called to demonstrate that it is possible to live a life of wholeness. The reduction of the self into a consumer-in-marketplace is not acceptable to the church. The church is the pilot community called by God to show and tell that the biblical understanding of the whole self, as a person-in-community, is possible. This possibility is experienced through the discipleship of the whole self into the cruciform life of Christ. In Christ, a person can discover what it is to be a whole human being—a person who is nurtured intellectually, physically, socially, and spiritually (Lk. 2:52).

PEACE  is harmony with Others. This is social-political transformation. In an unjust and oppressive system, human beings are seen as mere human resources or projects. The tendency is to thingify people. When this is the case, human beings who are created in the image of God are sacrificed to the altar of wealth and power. It becomes easy to oppress and exploit people when they are seen as things. Many times, well-meaning organizations and institutions—like governments, corporations, schools, military, churches, and even families—wittingly or unwittingly practice this, including institutions that claim to be Christian. We are called to love others as neighbors and not to treat others as competitors. In salam-shalom perspective, people are called to live a communal lifestyle. This communal view of life is emphasized by Sallie McFague:[2]

As members of the household called Earth, we are relational beings, defined by our needs that make us dependent on others by our joys that make us desire one another. We are not just self-interested individuals; in fact, according to the ecological-economic picture of reality, we are basically and primarily communal beings who become unique individuals through help and response to others.

In the communal lifestyle, the Other is treated as a neighbor to be loved as one’s self. The poor is embraced justly as an integral part of the community.

In contrast, globalism treats the Other as a competitor. In this perspective, one’s relationship is usually determined by the question, “How can I get ahead?” It is a competitive lifestyle. One’s relational environment becomes a rat race. Progress and growth is pictured as being in the fast lane. The successful ones are described as those who have arrived. The one’s who are left behind—economically, politically, socially—are considered losers. The competitive lifestyle is considered amoral because it is seen as a necessary, rationalistic approach to relationships in the context of market capitalism.

Rationalistic approaches to relationships even crept in many religious circles. People would have to find out what kinds of people go to a certain church with a conscious or subconscious evaluative factor: “What’s in it for me?” Rationalistic decision-making that is aimed to satisfy one’s religious wants is a fact in many Christian congregations in many of our cities and municipalities. When relationships are viewed based on exchange value (extrinsic value), the Other’s God-given value as one created as “very good,” fallen, and yet loved (intrinsic value), is reduced to being a competitor, if not merely as a commodity. When this happens, the church may be contributing, wittingly or unwittingly, to the devaluation of human beings— from that of a person created in God’s image to that of a thing born to be used.

For the Jewish listeners of Jesus Christ, the Samaritan was the person who loved his neighbor. Neighborly love can come from Others whom we do not usually consider to be neighbors (Lk. 10: 25-37). For the followers of Jesus Christ in an era of globalization, the neighbor is the Muslim, the Jew, the Buddhist, the religious Other.[3] We can give love to them. We can receive love from them.

PEACE  is harmony with Creation. This is economic-ecological transformation. Creation, from salam-shalom perspective, is seen as an organic-relational world, not merely as a mechanical-utilitarian world. In a mechanical-utilitarian view of the world, the emphasis is exploitation. If one of the parts of the machine-world is not functioning, the tendency is to replace it. Hence, in an unjust system, the natural resources can be exploited for the present, and then later, it can be substituted with synthetic products and artificial solutions.

In an organic-relational world, the emphasis is stewardship and loving care of creation. The biblical story of Creation tells us that “the Lord God formed the mortal (adam) from the dust of the ground (adamah) and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life and the mortal became a living being” (Gen. 2:7). These are the dynamic imageries used to give us a grasp of the beginning of the human race. We all came from the ground. We were named after the ground. We are one with Creation. We are one humanity! We are all carbon-based material. We are all breathed with the same breath of God. That is the story of our Being Alive! When the Creator-God commanded us to subdue the Earth (Gen. 1:28), it has the idea of l’shamrah—to care for, to keep, to watch, and to preserve it (Gen. 2:15). Earth-destruction is listed by the Prophet John as a sin (Rev. 11:18). We are all called by the Creator-God to be stewards of Planet Earth! Christians must apply the salam-shalom lifestyle in the stewardship of their resources.

Creation, from shalom perspective, is seen as an organic-relational world, not merely as a mechanical-utilitarian world. In a mechanical-utilitarian view of the world, the emphasis is exploitation. If one of the parts of the machine-world is not functioning, the tendency is to replace it. Hence, in globalism, the natural resources can be exploited for the present, and then later, it can be substituted with technological products and solutions.

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[1] (a) Iman—faith or belief in the Oneness of God and the finality of the prophethood of Muhammad; (b) Salah—establishment of the daily prayers; (c) Zakah—concern for and almsgiving to the needy; (d) Sawm—self-purification through fasting; and, (e) Hajj—the pilgrimage to Makkah for those who are able

[2] Sallie McFague, Life Abundant: Rethinking Theology and Economy for a Planet in Peril (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2001), p. 110.

[3] David H. Jensen, In the Company of Others: A Dialogical Christianity (Cleveland, Ohio: Pilgrim Press, 2001), pp. 187-200.