The force of war and the force of peace: the same force moving in opposite directions?

It seems that there is a tendency to see war as a very active energy and peace as a very passive energy. We refer to peace energy in the negative—nonviolence or nonaggression—as if peace were a vacuum created when the force of war is absent.

The force of war has several aspects. First, it requires tremendous energy—both external, physical energy and the internal drive to carry out the external aspects. Second, it requires tremendous organization and teamwork. To take on the implementation of a war plan requires a large number of human beings working together. Third, it requires a unified vision of purpose. Goals must be established and everyone plays a part in their successful outcome.

These forces are evident no matter on which side of a conflict a country finds itself. The country that attacks or the country that defends uses the same force. As in chess, the rules of the game are the same for the aggressor and the defender.

Is it possible that this force is in reality the force of peace? And is it also possible that the difference is whether this force spins and moves a person, country, or ethnic group away from God and towards the human ego, or spins in the opposite direction to bring that person, nation, or ethnic group closer to God?

To create the peaceable realm on Earth would require tremendous energy. Highly motivated and committed individuals and governments would need to expend a great deal of material resources to bring about peace. Economic disparity and material greed have fostered a great part of the war energy over history. To eliminate or at least level out economic disparity has been the stated goal of those seeking peace since the authors of Leviticus and the great prophets of Israel first called for radical economic reform. This call was picked up by Jesus and carried forth by the early Christian communities, and it still has a voice in groups like Quakers, Mennonites, and Brethren.

The force of peace would require a high degree of organization and teamwork. Imagine for a moment that the United States government had the same number of people working abroad and at home in the Peace Corps and Americorps as are in the military. And that would just create a degree of stasis: a balance point, not really moving us in the direction of God—just keeping us from moving in the ego-led direction of individual and national power.

Perhaps the most difficult aspect of this peace energy would be a unified vision of the peaceable realm. We seem to have such a huge range of vision on relatively mundane things like the form of worship in which we participate. Yet throughout the Hebrew Scriptures as well as the Christian Scripture (and the Buddhist and Taoist and—yes—even a good part of the Muslim sacred writings) there is a unified vision. Both Isaiah and Jesus used the metaphor of "the way" as did Buddha and Lao Tzu. Mohammed spoke of the "straight path."

Are they all talking about the direction in which the force of peace moves us to bring us closer to God?
Would it be possible to bring about the peaceable realm and still keep our unique modes of worship? Would it be possible to turn enough swords into plowshares to at least create the beginning of an energy reversal away from the human gods of nation, flag, and ideology, and toward the God of the universe?
The turbine of war can be reversed and begin to move as the turbine of peace; but it will take many, many people reversing their internal polarity so that all our energy is directed toward God and none toward our egos.

Tom Fox

Tom Fox is a member of Langley Hill (Va.) Meeting. He has been held hostage in Iraq with three other Christian Peacemaker Team members since November 26, 2005. He submitted this Viewpoint more than two years ago, and he wrote then that he put down these thoughts on the evening of September 11, 2003.