The Rt. Rev. Paul Jones, Syria, and the Pax Romana
As congress debates whether to bomb Syria for its recent use of chemical weapons in its two year long civil war, our church celebrates the lesser feast of the Rt. Rev. Paul Jones. Now, I say “Rt. Rev.” but if you look at our commemoration of the man, it will just say “Paul Jones.” Somewhere in the text it will say that he was the Bishop of Utah for a time in the early 1900′s. He was forced to step down as bishop because of his views on World War I.
He was against it.
He said it was unchristian. And, he said it very publicly.
Saying that war is unchristian really made a lot of people mad at the time, seeing as how we were in one.
There was a press outcry against him for his stance. Now, here’s the surprising part for me. A commission of the House of Bishops was appointed to investigate the matter and their conclusion was:
“The underlying contention of the Bishop of Utah seems to be that war is unchristian. With this general statement the Commission cannot agree … ”What? Seriously?
I think we can, actually, agree on that one.
Swords. Plowshares. You know? All that jazz?
Bishop Jones was forced to resign. He spent the rest of his life working in the church towards peace. When he left his position as bishop he said:
“Where I serve the Church is of small importance, so long as I can make my life count in the cause of Christ … Expediency may make necessary the resignation of a Bishop at this time, but no expedience can ever justify the degradation of the ideals of the episcopate which these conclusions seem to involve.”
When I think about Syria, I’m tempted to get caught up in the “justice” argument. I’m tempted to get caught up in “allies in the region argument”. I’m tempted to get caught up in the “Iran” argument.
I want Assad’s regime to pay for what they’ve done. But, that’s expedience, isn’t it? That’s my time. That’s the world’s justice. That is the Pax Romana.
But, the peace of Rome is no peace.
Repaying death with death is not what Jesus would have us do. He said he had come to bring division and strife and this is what he meant! The “peace” that we know, and many times crave, is not the peace of the Kingdom of God. Vengeance is not justice. Vengeance is not peace. Paying them back, death for death, is not what we are supposed to be about. And when we say it isn’t we look un-American. And when we look un-American, we get called on to resign our bishoprics… It’s not about being a bad Christian. It’s about being a bad American. And, when you say war is unchristian, and it is, mind you, suddenly you’re a bad American. And we can’t have that in our bishops… Because that’s what bishops are supposed to be, right? Good Americans?
It only looks like division and strife because the world doesn’t know what true peace is.
I’m only just now seeing that for myself. “Peace” means actual peace, not “peace through superior fire-power.” It doesn’t mean “peace, or we’ll come blow you up.” Peace isn’t the result of winning a war.
Not the peace of the Kingdom of God, anyway… When will we get it right? And can we?
I hope so, and I hope soon.