I’m one of that generation who came of age crawling under desks to prepare for nuclear holocaust and reading Nevil Shute’s On the Beach. The threat of immanent destruction has always circled just below the surface of my consciousness, periodically nibbling on my fingers and toes. So it caught my attention this week when my son posted an article from the New York Times on Facebook with a headline from Hillary Clinton, “I’m the Last Thing Standing Between You and the Apocolypse.”
It’s scary times we’re living in. The post 9/11 world is unraveling at the seams. We are arming rebel vigilantes in Iraq and have launched missiles against Yemen. Donald Trump seems prone to pull the trigger of our nuclear arsenal in response to virtually any provocation. The nightly news from Aleppo is evidence that there are no lengths to which humanity will not go in its self-righteous quest for power. And Russia has just recalled any citizens who are travelling abroad as a preparation for the possibility of world war.
Right now the space under my desk seems pretty darn inviting. I find myself fantasizing about where I might go to escape from Armageddon. Move back to the quiet isolation of Chebeague Island? emigrate to Canada? journey to the North Pole perhaps? I know, of course, that there is no escaping this one. In the next world war, there will be no corner of the planet left unaffected by its horrors.
Last night at Taize we sang over and over the haunting chant Dona la Pace, Signore. I want to pray for peace, for this country and all those caught in the path of war. I want to beg God to allow the cup of this crisis to pass. Indeed, my heart now makes these prayers with every breath I take. And yet as much as I wish we might avert warfare- and will do whatever is in my power to prevent our country from electing a candidate who feasts on retribution and combat- I don’t really believe in a God who chooses to answer or ignore such prayers, one who averts this war and wages that one.
We may dream of the Peaceable Kingdom, but the peace of which we sang last night is a different kind of peace. It’s the peace Jesus arrived at in the Garden of Gethsemane. It’s a peace like that of which Martin Luther King spoke the night before he died. It’s a peace that recognizes whatever chaos is reigning in our world, the love that is God remains the Ground of our Being. And with this realization comes a further understanding: my call at this challenging time is to avoid the temptation to crawl under that desk and instead to offer whatever peace I have to offer to those who cross my path. May it be the same for you.