The other day I read a blog post by Peter Leithart entitled “Give Peace a Chance.” Commenting on the book The Question of Peace in Modern Politics, Leithart believes that “the editors begin from assumptions that need to be questioned.” From here Leithart begins to question the editors assumption:
Separation of church and state is a very good thing in the editors’ view because it detaches the inevitable violence of politics from “higher causes” that are religious in character. One empirical rejoinder to this is that “secular” states have found plenty of higher causes to pursue, and have pursued those causes with unprecedented violence. Another empirical rejoinder is that the church has been an agent of peace, so that protecting the state from the church’s influence protects state violence from a force that may serve to moderate it. (I don’t deny that the church has also, tragically, been a promoter of violence.)
Theologically, an investigation of secular peace involves a pursuit of peace-without-Christ, who is the Prince of Peace. It is an effort to establish a peace that doesn’t need the gospel of peace. Or, it is an alternative gospel of peace, which is no gospel at all because, like the gospel of the Galatian Judaizers, its good news is established by the works of law – by the fostering of international institutions, rules, procedures, and courts. Against Hobbes, the good news is not that fear trumps honor but that perfect love casts out fear.
I thought that Leithart made a wonderful point by showing how the secular state hides behind its own rhetoric about the separation of church and state. Proponents of such a divide will say things like “religion brings in violence of higher causes.” yet they completely refuse to accept the fact that huge amounts of violence have been committed by the secular state that has created higher causes of its own.
Further, Leithart makes the point that the pursuit of peace apart from Jesus (the Prince of Peace) or His gospel (the gospel of peace) is doomed to failure because it (the pursuit of peace apart from Christ), just like the Galatian Judiazers, is based on works of the law which cannot bring true peace.
Letihart reminds us that the good news of peace is not that fear has one out over honor (as Hobbes argues fro in his views of political peace) but that perfect love (Jesus Christ) casts out fear.
Food for thought.