Celestial Lands The Religious Crossroads of Politics, Power, and Theology

Building a Just Peace

Below is an excerpt of and collection of resources for the speech on Building a Just Peace that I presented at People’s Church Chicago on November 22, 2008.  I am thankful for all the wonderful engagement and questions, and look forward to continuing the conversations with those who were there, as well as those who were not. 

 Excerpt from “Building a Just Peace”

Click here to go to the speech in its entirety

My primary concern about the modern peace movement is that, in our passionate efforts to oppose a particular war or particular set of wars, we may use “tactics” and “strategies” that while are effective in calling attention to a particular war, actually reinforce the kinds of conflict and division that stand at the root of the culture of war in which we live.

Demonizing political opposition, angry activist protests, and even confrontational news interviews seem to me to be taken from the same military manuals I once studied on propaganda and psychological warfare. While they are undoubtedly effective in calling attention to and perhaps even pressuring an end to a particular war, I believe such tactics actually reinforce the culture of war that is deeply embedded in our lives and society. We may be creating more wars by how we oppose a particular war.

The second critique I wish to bring before you today on the modern peace movement is actually best said in words that are not my own, and so I will let the words of His Holiness the Dali Lama speak for themselves.

“Peace, in the sense of the absence of war, is of little value to someone who is dying of hunger or cold. It will not remove the pain of torture inflicted on a prisoner of conscience. It does not comfort those who have lost their loved ones in floods caused by senseless deforestation in a neighboring country. Peace can only last where human rights are respected, where the people are fed, and where individuals and nations are free.”

If we limit our vision as makers and builders of peace to the issue of ceasing from violence, then we will never move any closer to healing our world than simply and continuously replacing the bandages. Just as we Unitarian Universalists say in our 7th principle that each of us is interdependent upon one another, so too is every issue of justice connected deeply to each other and to the building of peace. We cannot create peace if we do not build upon a foundation of human rights, of justice, of equality, and of freedom.

The third criticism I bring for your thought today is that the most common paradigm in which we speak about peacemaking and peacebuilding is inherently flawed and limited… and that is the pacifism vs. just war paradigm. This paradigm limits the discussion of what is possible in our efforts to these two camps, in effect creating within this debate about peace a replication of the same kind of warfare which each purports to oppose. Locked into these opposing lines, we are unable to co-creatively see how a vision of justice and support can lessen any need for military action, and how at times limited military and peacekeeping actions can create the conditions necessary for Justice. I believe that if we are to move forward in building a just peace based in beloved community, then we have to break out of these hardened lines and develop new theoretical ways of approaching the issues of peacemaking and peacebuilding.

Click here to go to the speech in its entirety

UUA Resources on Peacemaking

Draft UUA Statement of Conscience on Peacemaking

UU Peace Ministry Network

UU Wiki on Peacemaking

UUA Peacemaking Website

UUA Commission on Social Witness

Some of David’s other writings on Peacemaking/Peacebuilding

Ministry and the Moral Implications of Combat

Creating a Culture of Peace

Sermon: Embedded War

Defining War and Peace

Sermon: In Defense of Inherent Worth and Interdependence

Never again… Remember me…

Unitarian Universalism and Military Chaplaincy

These are the resources I promised I would make available… I want to thank the organizers, everyone who attended, and my fellow panelists (Ra Chaka, Director of the African American Alliance for Peace and Justice and Brad Lyttle, Candidate for President from the United States Pacifist Party). 

Yours in Faith,


One Thought on “Building a Just Peace

  1. I’ve argued many of these points in my social justice committees work on a peace keeping resolution. Briefly put, Justice should always trump Peace. The two are not synonemous and we can easily have the unjust peace. Most UUs, at least those writing on it, are long on peace and very short on justice.

    Obama’s administration may well turn out to be a wake up call for them. UUs are going to have to take a stand on Afghanistan and other interventions. It will not be easy for them and most of the framework they’re building will not help (take the current draft and game it with any current real world scenario. My committee refused to do that as way too hard).

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