Gaza is on fire. That bright light in the sky isn’t a star leading wise men, it’s a rocket raining death and destruction. Hamas, a political group associated with terrorism, is in control of the Gaza Strip, home to Palestinians. Israel claims that Hamas threatens Israel’s security, explaining the new attacks as a defensive measure. Nearly 300 people are dead, hundreds more injured.
This in the place we Christians revere as the Holy Land, the place we mythologize in this season as the location of the first Christmas, the place of Christ’s birth, complete with shepherds and donkeys and magi and bright stars and angels heard on high. No “Gloria in Excelsis” this week for this sad and troubled land, the real ancient drama of hatred among factions continues relentlessly.
How many Americans are paying attention to this latest outbreak of violence in the Middle East? More likely, we’re riveted by stories of the man dressed in a Santa suit who shot up his ex-wife’s home, killing her and eight others before himself. Another headline tells us of a man who shot people in a movie theater because he was angry that they were talking during the film. A local taxi driver murdered last night. Good news becomes a family who escaped injury after being taken hostage by a robber. We skip past the dreary economic headlines, hoping to find some good news, only to run into yet another international horror — car bombs in Afghanistan and Pakistan taking more innocent lives.
Whatever happend to Peace on Earth? Has the concept simply become background notes to seasonal songs, falala, la la la la…?? The phrase “Peace on Earth” decorates Christmas ornaments and holiday cards — but what does it really mean in this desperate historic moment?
It’s been a long time since we heard anyone in a national leadership position make a clear and unambiguous statement about the absolute necessity of restoring peace to this troubled world. True, the economic situation has swept almost all other considerations aside as we prepare for the Obama Administration to take office on January 20.
Certainly, economic instability contributes to the likelihood that domestic violence will increase over time as more people become more desperate. But even more important, on the world stage, restoration of national and global fiscal health depends upon the restoration of a more peaceful and productive world order. No less credible a source than the Congressional Budget Office estimates that the War on Terror — including the actions in Afghanistan and Iraq — has already cost this nation nearly $900 billion, and may well reach almost $2 trillion if these wars continue for the next decade. Think of the good that could come from investing that money in rebuilding our national and global infrastructure; rather than bombing and blowing things up, we should be building and expanding the best of our knowledge economy.
When President Obama makes his inaugural address on January 20, I, for one, will be listening carefully to hear his agenda for peace. The moral leadership of the U.S. president sets the tone for other leaders. It’s more than high time for the U.S. president to become the world’s chief advocate for peaceful solutions to even the most difficult and dangerous challenges of our times.
Peace on earth — it’s more than a Christmas carol. Let’s hear that song all through the year!