On Jan. 31, 2004, World Net Daily published an article written by (the now late) Jerry Falwell under the headline: "GOD IS PRO-WAR."
While the article was intended to rally support for President Bush and the invasion of Iraq, for many readers it left the indelible impression that evangelicals are uber-nationalistic war mongers, willing to plunge the world into endless conflict in order to fulfill their apocalyptic fantasies.
As a person who (loosely) identifies with the evangelical tradition, allow me to make a clear, unambiguous declaration: GOD IS PRO-PEACE!
You may be thinking, "Just how exactly does a guy who claims to believe in the inspiration of Scripture arrive at the conclusion that God is pro-peace? Has this guy even read the Bible? Maybe he's one of those amnesia-type Christians, the ones who read through the Bible every year as part of their daily devotions, and every time they get to the slavery and genocide passages, their mind goes ______________.
Maybe it wasn't those exact words, but whatever you were thinking, believe me, I get it!
What about the Canaanites? The Jebusites? The Amalekites?
What about that verse in the Psalms about babies that nobody wants to talk about? Or the one about women being forced to marry their -- oh my!
Did Moses really command the Israelites to march into towns and kill everything that breathes? What about hell?
The infinite inferno that evangelicals believe awaits everybody (except for them) after they die? The god that evangelicals worship -- the one that allegedly hates gays, Muslims, socialists and feminists -- that god is pro-peace?
Sure. And King David was Norwegian.
I'd be lying if I said that I haven't agonized over some of the awful things that are in the Bible, as well as the picture of God that many associate with the evangelical tradition. But at the end of the day my faith isn't about who gets into heaven and who doesn't. It's not about whether hell is literal, metaphorical,or temporal. It's not about which political system God likes more than others. And most importantly, it's not about which system of Biblical interpretation is the right one -- whether the Bible is factually inerrant in every detail or whether vast sections of the Bible can be understood as allegorical.
These are all important questions, but they all miss the point. At the heart of evangelicalism (and indeed, the Christian faith tradition) is the conviction that God's character is fully and finally revealed in the person of Jesus of Nazareth.
This is why I can say that God is pro-peace -- because Jesus is pro-peace.
Jesus said, "Love your enemies" and "blessed are the peacemakers." He refused to participate in violent insurrection against the Romans even though, by all standards, throwing off the Roman occupiers would have been well within the parameters of a "just war."
As the Roman soldiers were piercing his flesh and crowning him with thorns, his response was, "Father forgive them."
The New Testament boldly declares that Jesus is "the image of the invisible God," "the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being" (Colossians 1:15 and Hebrews 1:3).
Notice the word exact.
Exact is a strong word that leaves no wiggle room for deviation. God is exactly like Jesus.
This means that whatever image of God I might have, whether it comes from my circumstances or life experiences, my imagination or even my own religious tradition, if the image of God in my head can't be reconciled with the man who loved, blessed and prayed for his enemies even while they were crucifying him -- then that image is wrong!
Today the drumbeats of war are pounding again, and this time the anti-Christ du jour is Iran, the country (ironically) strengthened by our last invasion.
If you're wondering if evangelicals can summon the resources within their faith to encourage pro-active peacemaking, the answer is a clear and unambiguous YES.
If God is like Jesus, then God is pro-peace.
I pray the message is clearer this time around.
Follow Aaron Taylor on Twitter: www.twitter.com/aarondtaylor