News reports and analyses of the first wars I followed in any sense of real-time – the Iraqi war and the wars in the Balkans in the 1990’s – often seemed to wander towards the same open-ended conclusion: there’s so much history here, and it’s complicated. The reports recognized with some measure of fatalism that history runs deep, and that in the end history is hard if not impossible to overcome.
This week our nation’s long running conflict with Iran entered a new phase, with the killing by an American drone of the Iranian general Qassim Suleimani. The future is uncertain, and the worst-case scenarios are terrifying. Most of us can do little but wait to see what happens next: will either country escalate? Are we headed for wider war, or does this new tension hold the possibility for some new form of dialogue?
As in all wars, hot, cold, potential or actual, there is so much history to consider, and it’s all so very complicated.
As a Christian, though, I am called not only to carefully consider that history, but also to look beyond it to the hope and promise of a world that has made violence and war a thing of the past. Yes, it’s a lot to imagine such a wonderful state of affairs given the reality of life as we know it. But if that’s what God imagines for us, then we can envision it for ourselves as well.
“There’s a lot of history to consider” cannot be the end of the conversation if we’re to be faithful to our call to work for peace and reconciliation. The Caesars of this world who would define for us the contours of our relationships with our neighbors – and put our lives on the the line for good measure – cannot put an end to our eternal hope for peace and justice.
Who do we let shape our vision for a world beyond war? When worldly leaders betray a dangerous lack of imagination we might instead look to prophets such as Isaiah, who remind us what God imagines for us all, far beyond the petty histories and complexities in which we remain stuck:
In the days to come, God shall judge between the nations, and shall arbitrate for many peoples; They shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks; nation shall not lift up sword against nation, neither shall they learn war any more.