Wednesday, July 30, 2014

Jesus Freak-Peacenik

Back in the late 1960’s and early 1970’s I was going through a lot of  turmoil, not unlike most teens my age. Being involved with the Jesus Movement during that time gave me the inner peace that I was craving.

But, becoming a Christian also challenged two very important passions of mine, Science and the Anti-War Movement. In my earlier blog post, I'm Losing (And Finding) My Religion - Again, I wrote about my faith journey and my love of science and how I finally reconciled the two

Here, I want to tell the story of my other passion and how being involved with the Jesus Movement caused me to abandon the Anti-War Movement for a period of time.

During the Vietnam War I registered for the draft as a Consciences Objector. The Great Command to “love your neighbor as your self” along with the Great Commission to “go and make disciples” could not be reconciled in my mind with going to war. I would often make the point of how totally incompatible spreading the Gospel is with going to war by saying “Hello, I am a christian and I am here to let you know that Jesus loves you... BANG!”

On one hand I was hanging up anti-war posters while on the other hand I was passing out Gospel leaflets. At the height of the Jesus Movement a very popular and influential singer named Larry Norman wrote a song that prompted me to give up my anti-war activities. Larry’s song Right Here In America has a line that says:

“I'm not talking religion, I'm talking 'bout Jesus, Put all your plans on the shelf. Let's stop marching for peace, and start marching for Jesus, And peace will take care of itself.”

That is exactly what I did, I shelved my plans to help end the Vietnam War and literally marched for Jesus. I felt that investing time and energy on anything other than spreading the Gospel was sinful. I believed that if I could help convert the whole world to Christianity all wars would miraculously end.

About this same time John Lennon released his hit song Imagine. Imagine was so Anathema to my way of thinking. How could we do away with Heaven and Hell? How could I imagine no religion? I hated that song! I hated it while at the same time I was drawn towards it.

John Lennon’s song challenged me to think about religion in a new way. So many wars and conflicts, so much hatred and division - all in the name of Jesus, Mohammed, Moses, Vishnu, or whatever deity gave someone the feeling that divine authority was granted to kill in the name of religion. I was beginning to understand why John Lennon wrote Imagine. It was not a song against religion, but a song against hatred in the name of religion.

I don’t think that John Lennon would imagine a world without Jesus’ teachings on Peace and Love. Jesus spoke out against hypocrisy and any religion that breeds hatred. Jesus taught that Peacemakers are blessed, he taught that we should love our enemies, reach out to the outcasts, and help the needy.

The eradication of all religion can no more bring about world peace than the conversion of the entire planet to Christianity would. A world totally void of religion or a completely Christian world are both utopian dreams without any basis in reality. With or without religion people still have to choose peace as a way of life, peace is not an automatic byproduct of either system.

I am no longer repulsed by John Lennon’s song Imagine. I came to believe that John was making the point that anything - be it possessions, politics, or religion - anything that causes hatred between people should be abandoned. Imagine is no longer Anathema to me, I now embrace it.

I am still talking about Jesus, but I am also speaking out against war again. I now am actively promoting peace with the full conviction that it is my Christian duty because Jesus said “Blessed are the Peacemakers, for they shall be called the children of God”

"We will not build a peaceful world by following a negative path. It is not enough to say "We must not wage war." It is necessary to love peace and sacrifice for it. We must concentrate not merely on the negative expulsion of war, but on the positive affirmation of peace."
~Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. - Nobel Peace Prize Lecture December 11, 1964

Peace, Love, and Light!
Kevin (Cloud)