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Makers Of Peace

They have healed the wound of my people lightly, saying, ‘Peace, peace,’ when there is no peace. - The Prophet Jeremiah.

With all the upheaval in the world at present and parties from all walks expressing various degrees of dissatisfaction and ennui, there aren't too many voices saying "Peace, peace," in the sense of declaring an achieved peace. Virtually everyone is keenly aware that peace is in short supply. This feeling may be especially acute in America, in the wake of Donald Trump's election, but there are similar indicators of deep unrest in Europe and elsewhere.

But the prophet's words alert us to the fact that there is such a thing as a false peace. Jesus Christ backs up Jeremiah on this point when he states that He gives peace not as the world gives (John 14:27). He also says in his most famous sermon that his followers will be marked by the feature of being peacemakers (Matt. 5:9), yet elsewhere says that he came not to bring peace but a sword, more specifically a sword of division (Matt. 10:34-39). Again indicating that there is a duality to peace, or rather that there is a genuine, divine peace (which doesn't preclude division) and a false, worldly peace.

Does this faux peace of the world present any danger when there are really no false prophets declaring peace in the first place? Yes, true, there are those apostles of Progress who attempt to convince us that the world is the most peaceful and least bloody that it's ever been.1 But these are a handful of eggheads that few people take seriously. On an existential level, everyone knows that war is raging all around them. So where is this false peace?

It's mainly found in the plans and visions of our elites and culture-makers. Progressives take "blessed are the peacemakers" and attempt to apply the lesson to making "peace" between darkness and light, as if that were possible. But we know that it is not for "what communion hath light with darkness? Or what concord hath Christ with Belial?" (2 Cor. 6:14-15). Nevertheless, this impossible peace betwixt good and evil is the only one the progressive knows, and it manifests in the secular faux virtues of tolerance, inclusivity, open-mindedness and the like.

Here we may see secular liberalism as a diabolical distortion or misappropriation of Christianity. 'Diabolical' in a quite literal sense; the work of the devil is not so much destruction of that which is good (he may desire that, but it is ontologically impossible), but rather the corruption of what is good; the twisting of actual goods to distorted ends. Satan is the master of deception, the father of lies, and this involves twisting and manipulating the truth, rather than annihilating it. People are on guard against what they regard as obvious evil or falsehood, but their defenses are down against the subtlest enchantments of half-truths and distortions.

Indeed, even virtues developed and deployed purely in the service of men, or (worse) 'humanity,' dethroning the service of God rather than being subservient to and flowing therefrom, can be the subtlest enticement of the evil one.

Selfishness is worship misdirected; lust is love corrupted and perverted; tolerance is mercy distorted, and the peace the world gives is a faint echo of the genuine peace of God.

Blessed are the peacemakers, certainly. Bring peace to the Commonwealth, peace to your family, seek peace even with enemies, but first and foremost seek to establish it in your own heart. The exterior world is a result of the interior one. Christ makes this clear when he tells us that all external troubles begin at, and proceed from, the heart (Matt. 15:18-20). If we are to be peacemakers, bringers of peace to the world we inhabit, it begins with our own interior struggle against the passions, by God's activity and our own ascetical cooperation.

Spiritual peace can only be achieved through struggle, through spiritual warfare. The peaceful person is constantly engaged in the battle. Once you lay down your arms, you may perceive the cessation of conflict as peace, but it would only be the diabolical false peace of the world.

This paradox of the peaceful person perpetually engaged in warfare is profoundly expressed in the iconographical tradition of the Orthodox Church, particularly in her warrior saints. The martyrs of the Church, while enduring torturous deaths, are depicted with passionless, undisturbed features, revealing an interior peace that persists even amidst great exterior suffering and conflict. Commenting on an icon of the Great Martyr St. George enthroned, where he appears to be both at rest and dynamically in the motion of rising for combat, Fr. Maximos Constas writes:

The intriguing duality [of the icon] also expresses the central paradox of Christian martyrdom, and indeed of Christian life of general: the concurrence of inner rest (apatheia) and external sufferings (pathos), for "though the outer man is perishing, the inner man is being renewed every day" (2 Cor. 4:16).2

Peace is a cessation of the heart's turmoil and a bringing of the person into stillness and unity. This is achieved by making war on the enemies and disturbers of peace; by refusing to make peace with the enemies of God and refusing to make peace with the darkness of the world, especially the sort that resides within you.

When extended to the arena of politics and the Commonwealth, keeping the peace may often involve the very things secularists and progressives revile most (repelling foreign invaders; limiting and regulating immigration, while using discrimination; strong police crackdowns on crime, etc.), because genuine peace is not the cessation of conflict with the forces of chaos. Neither in the heart nor in the nation.

The peace projects of the Left—"peace" with Islam, "tolerance" (or even promotion) of crime and degeneracy, "dialogue" with forces of disruption—aim at increasing disorder and instability in the commonwealth. Merkel's Germany is the latest and most glaring example of this folly. Thus, when some political figure comes to the fore promising to do those things necessary to keep and establish peace, foreign and domestic—which entails undoing the false peace with agents of chaos—the Left burst into unruly riots and deploy the most inflammatory, hysterical rhetoric against the incoming regime, threatening to revolt—literally disturbing the peace.

When it comes to peace in the family, their primary aim is dethroning the father from his rightful spot as patriarch, making relations between husband and wife, parent and child, egalitarian. This allows them to infiltrate the space of the family and manage the relations in a way conducive to their own ends, whether it's turning mothers into the servants of capital or voters reliant on the state's, rather than the father's, benevolence. Disorder and chaos follows from this necessarily.

A home of competing interests, with players equalized, and with no head or sovereign, disrupts the very possibility of concord and unity. Unity requires being united to and around some principle. God in your heart, bringing your inner turmoil and dispersion into restful unity; the father in the home, giving his life and labor for his wife, and ruling and teaching his children manfully with love; the King or the sovereign in the commonwealth, resolving conflicts between parties, and ruling with dignity, wisdom, and strength. The monarchical structure of the cosmos is reflected in each of its constituent parts. While the "peace" of competing, self-interested, atomized equals cuts against concord and unity, and can ever only ever result in destabilization and the false sort of peace.

Sir Robert Filmer in his work Patriarcha observes the connection between these different levels of authority, all founded on the Fatherhood of God:

I see not then how the children of Adam, or of any man else, can be free from subjection to their parents. And this subjection of children being the fountain of all regal authority, by the ordination of God himself; it follows that civil power not only, in general, is by divine institution, but even the assignment of it specifically to the eldest parents, which quite takes away that new and common distinction which refers only power universal and absolute to God, but power respective in regard of the special form of government to the choice of the people.

The agent of dissolution of this peace and order is the "choice of the people." The taming of the will, bringing it into subjection to Christ's reign, including his hierarchical ordering of the family and the civil sphere, entails the eradication of yet another false construct of our culture: freedom. Authentic freedom is found in the disciplining and subjection of the will to its telos in God; the freedom to "choose" is slavery to the chaos of our own fallen desires. Peace is found in freedom, but both of these words are used by our culture in ways that obscure their true sense, clouding our vision of what it means to be free and at peace.

So while there may not be anyone trying to convince you that peace is here, there are certainly forces attempting to get you to strive after a false peace: in your heart, in your family, in your nation. Agents of darkness and their servants whispering that the cessation of spiritual warfare is the true path to peace. These are the contemporary false prophets declaring "peace, peace!" where there is none to be found.

  1. Think of Steven Pinker's The Better Angels of Our Nature and Michael Shermer's The Moral Arc.

  2. Fr. Maximos Constas, The Art of Seeing: Paradox and Perception in Orthodox iconography, p. 165.