What Peace Really Means
Another day in the aftermath of an attack that left behind many dead, many wounded and countless people confused. Minutes after the allegiance of the culprit became known, the media downplayed the likelihood that the attack had anything to do with Islam. He was probably mentally ill or maybe poor, but surely his motivation was not religious. All the years that I grew up in a Muslim country and received Islamic education, I had not heard that Islam was a religion of peace. That is, until I moved to America.
The secular West, which has lost the desire to defend its own values, often gives the impression there is nothing to fight for. But a closer look reveals an alternative set of values secularists are more than willing to defend. For them, fraternal peace necessarily takes precedence over the acquisition of otherworldly contentment. Yet, any system of belief that does not recognize a God willing to undergo suffering to bring about eternal peace is likely to commit bloodshed for false peace.
There is a Jet Li movie called Hero, where flying Chinese warriors dressed in colorful outfits try to convince you that much should be sacrificed for the greater good, including innocent lives. The Qin emperor, who conquers and slaughters mercilessly, claims that he is doing all this conquering and slaughtering for the sake of a unified China, which will eventually mean peace for the entire land. At the end of the movie, the audience is supposed to scratch its head and deeply contemplate whether there is truth in this premise at all. When earthly peace is the ultimate goal, the many ways to achieve it could be justified without much effort. Of course, followers of Christ know better.
The first thing I noticed when I visited Germany on my first foreign trip abroad were the trash cans everywhere; all I could think of was how I did not need to stuff garbage in my purse to dispose later. By then, I had lived in the two biggest cities of Turkey where trash cans were removed after the PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) planted bombs in them, killing and wounding innocent pedestrians.
Back then, Christ was unknown to me, and my conscience was clouded with communist ideas. I regretted the loss of life, but if you wanted to make an omelet, you should be willing to break some eggs. You see, I was sympathetic to the PKK cause, even though their terroristic methods were less than ideal. Without a properly formed conscience, we are likely to support ideologies that seek to sacrifice the lives of others. One only needs to read about Stalin, Mao, Hitler or Muhammed to reach this conclusion. Islam is only a religion of peace once everyone is peacefully Muslim.
There are two different kinds of peace in Turkish. One is internal peace, which can only be achieved transcendentally and remains within a person regardless of his circumstances. The internal peace is a state of being in one’s soul. It is the peace the English language refers to in phrases like “Rest in Peace” or “Peace be with you.” Then there is external peace, which is simply the lack of war or conflict. The external peace is fluid and volatile, it cannot be relied on. The external peace is fleeting and temporal, therefore a Muslim ought not rely on the current lack of conflict for his inner peace. Actually, in a sense the external peace is irrelevant for the acquisition of inner peace that can only be achieved by perfect devotion to Allah.
Surely this type of peace is not, or should not be, foreign to Christians. After all, how can we explain St. Lawrence asking his tormentors to turn him over because he was done on one side? The peace he had at the time of his death could only be attained through God.
In a godless culture, where the concept of inner peace—not the Kung Fu Panda kind but the St. Anthony kind—is so utterly unattainable, the only remaining “peace” is the fragile external peace.
This, of course, is a disturbing thought for a culture where there is no one to supply this inner peace. Where suicide, depression, abortion and euthanasia are rampant, where the peace of the Holy Spirit is disregarded, lack of conflict becomes the greatest value. Suggesting that other than the occasional mass shooting or jihadist attack, the secular West lives in peace is nothing short of denial. We should ask the fetus in the womb if her world is peaceful; or the suicidal teenager whether his life is peaceful; or the elderly woman who can’t afford life-saving medical treatment if she can see tomorrow.
Jihadi attacks bring the reality of violence and death to the front page. A dutiful Muslim believes there are more important things than a life of peace. In his utterly distorted world, he has found something to die for. And, without the concept of being created in the image of God, he is also more than willing to kill for a utopian world dominated by Islam.
Again we are at the same place where an innocent person is expendable for the greater good. The premise of the movie Hero can be found everywhere when there is no proper understanding of the human person and his relationship with the Creator. Communists did it in the Soviet Union, in China and in Venezuela. They did not care how many people died as long as that unachievable utopia moved one step closer to fruition? The proponents of abortion do it. Who cares how many babies die, as long as selfish men and women can live as they wish? The defenders of euthanasia do it. Who cares if we kill the sick and the elderly, as long as they are not a burden to insurance companies, the state or their families? Jihadists do it. Who cares how many civilians are murdered as long as the entire world falls on their knees before Allah?
All of these ideologies are looking for peace, but not the right kind, for true peace can never be attained at the cost of innocent lives. Communists fail to grasp that our sinful nature, not the unequal distribution of wealth, makes the world an unlivable place at times. However, despite sin, every person has dignity because of the Creator. Secularists do not understand that every life sacrificed at the altar of convenience and false freedom will only bring more bondage and despair. Muslims who kill in the name of Allah do not believe that the Maker of Heaven and Earth can bestow his own image upon lowly humans, die for them, and thus exalt each and every one of us. That is why innocent life is sacred; a truth missed by all three worldviews.
The naked emperor has been convinced by charlatans and sycophants that he is wearing splendid new garments, but we know the truth. We know what peace truly means—unlike the man who asked for an ISIS flag to hang in his hospital room after he ran down eight innocent people with his truck in New York on Tuesday.