Wednesday, October 3, 2012

A Pre-emptive Peace

Walking our dog Hobbes in our neighborhood, we sometimes pass a car with a bumper sticker that reads, “I’m already against the next war.” It made me think of a church woman who complained about the student demonstrations against the Vietnam War, “Why can’t they be for something?” she asked. Another church woman responded, “They are—they’re for peace!” 

I like the idea of a pre-emptive peace to counter the justification for pre-emptive wars. Politically, a pre-emptive peace means using diplomacy and peaceful influence and pressure in concert with other nations, and supporting like-minded public servants who can win elections and achieve these goals. (My pragmatism as well as my sense of urgency will not let me waste votes on unelectable idealists. And I must admit to having little patience with those who refuse to vote because the electable candidates are not up to their standards of perfection.) 

Practicing a pre-emptive peace can also be disarming personally. In the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus advised, “Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are on your way to court…” Many of the sayings in that sermon suggest practical strategies of a pre-emptive peace: Greet strangers. Love enemies. Pray for those who persecute you. Don’t exact revenge. Don’t be greedy. Don’t show off. Pray, remembering to forgive as you ask forgiveness. Tell the truth. Be faithful. Don’t be anxious. Trust God’s Providence. Avoid ultimate judgments of others. Practice discernment. 

Some years ago, I was stunned to meet a totally disarming man: Mister Rogers. I did not watch his “neighborhood” growing up, and I knew him primarily through parodies of him on programs like Saturday Night Live. I had just given the sermon at Pittsburgh’s Sixth Presbyterian Church, which he attended, and he was waiting in line to greet me after the worship service. A relative of his gave me a passionate, unexplained hug, and then Mister Rogers stepped forward. “I know who you are,” I said good-humoredly as I reached out my hand, aware and admiring of this man who had been ordained by the Presbyterian Church to do his television ministry.  

Now, I’ve met my share of celebrities, so I know the experience of a celebrity swoon that is sometimes felt in such encounters. But as he took my hand, smiling, this was not what I experienced. Rather, I felt complete inner peace. Gently, holding my hand, “the oracle” spoke: “You are very important to Henri Nouwen,” he said. “Mister Rogers knows Henri Nouwen?” I thought, amazed. As we talked, I knew that biblical “peace that passes understanding.” This is the peace that I imagine one may encounter with deeply spiritual people, such as the Dalai Lama, Mother Teresa, or Desmond Tutu.  I just was positively surprised to experience it with Mister Rogers! 

There are prophets who disturb us, pastors who prod us, teachers who unsettle us, therapists who challenge us. But even they may convey a pre-emptive peace. Rev. Jim Hughes, an NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) therapist, was one of the rare people who could offer me helpful critiques that from anyone else could feel devastating and debilitating, but in his framing of them made me feel complimented and empowered! 

I believe that many more of us may practice a pre-emptive peace, beginning each day by reviewing our agendas contemplatively, lifting all whom we will encounter and all the day’s activities in prayer, and then returning again and again to that place of peace throughout the day. After a spirituality workshop in which I led participants in singing the Taize version of “Ubi Caritas” from time to time, a seminary professor told me if she could just sing that occasionally during her day, she would be far more peaceful. 

Let’s already be against the next war, politically and personally.  
Copyright © 2012 by Chris R. Glaser. All rights reserved. Permission granted for non-profit use with attribution of author and blogsite. Please make a tax-deductible donation to this ministry!


  1. Truly a peace-provoking blog! And since I first met you at one of the conferences I attended years ago (it could have been either Dignity or UFMCC), I have had that same sense of peaceful spiritual presence. You really are one of the "celebrities" that I am profoundly grateful to have met personally as well as through your published work. Namaste!