Clarence’s Clarion Call – Most Peaceful Time in History
by Clarence Rempel, WDC Conference Minister
Terry Rediger, pastor at Turpin Mennonite Church, surprised his pastor peer group with the question, “What is the most peaceful time in history?” After letting us sit with the question for awhile, he shared the perspective of Harvard University professor Steve Pinker that the most peaceful time in history is right now. Surprised?
Because news tends to focus on the most violent events locally and globally, it is hard for us to see or imagine how our world has become more peaceful and less vengeful over the past two thousand years. Pinker’s statistical analysis in available online. He attributes this trending toward greater peace to stable governments, the valuing of life through health care advancements, and global interconnectivity through digital communications.
I connect this trending toward a more peaceful world with the promise and fulfillment of Isaiah 9:6-7.
For to us a child is born, to us a son is given and the government will be on his shoulders. And he will be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace. Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end.
The governing guidance of the Prince of Peace through the work of citizens of his kingdom is ever increasing. I believe it. I see it. When I take the long view of history, I can see how the Wonderful Counselor is bringing peace and reconciliation to our world through the church.
When I traveled across India in 1997, I saw how the church had brought education, medical care, literacy, release from the power of evil spirits to the poorest of the poor, the Dalits, the outcasts. It was the influence of the church, though only a tiny minority, that brought an end to widow burnings, that brought human dignity to every person, and that began to mitigate the oppressive caste system. The church was at the center of redeeming individuals and recreating the culture. The Mennonite church had more students in its schools than members in its churches. It was doing amazing work in bringing a humanizing peace from below in servant ministry fashion. Similar stories can be told in country after country, century after century.
There are times when the church got it terribly wrong and instigated or endorsed violent and oppressive actions. The Crusades would be an example. Even there the correction came with a call back to following Jesus anew as the Prince of Peace.
It was worshiping and praying Christians that kept alive the hope of freedom and human dignity in the 70 years of atheistic, communist oppression in the Soviet Union. It was the church, the African-American church, which stood against the evils of segregation and racism in the United States in non-violent protest. It was the global church that was influential in upending the oppression of apartheid in South Africa and then creating Truth and Reconciliation Commissions to create a pathway to reconciliation and avert a disastrous civil war. It has been good to remember the work of Nelson Mandela in calling a whole nation to forgiveness in the face of unmentionable atrocities. I don’t know that his motivations were explicitly Christian, but his actions clearly mirrored the words of Jesus, “Father, forgive them for they don’t know what they are doing.”
The rule of the Prince of Peace is ever increasing. I believe it. I see it. As The Message says:
For a child has been born—for us!
….His ruling authority will grow,
and there’ll be no limits to the wholeness he brings.
….He’ll put that kingdom on a firm footing
and keep it going
With fair dealing and right living,
beginning now and lasting always.