Rev. John Dear, Rev. John Dear, S.J.
Pax Christi USA Ambassador of Peace

Editor’s note: This meditation is the fifth of a five-part summer series on the peace writings in the psalms.

“Their idols are silver and gold, the work of human hands.
They have mouths but do not speak, eyes but do not see.
They have ears but do not hear, noses but do not smell.
They have hands but do not feel, feet but do not walk,
and no sound rises from their throats.
Their makers shall be like them, all who trust in them.” (Ps. 115: 4-8)

Psalm 115 may not seem like a psalm of peace, but for me, it gets right to the heart of the matter. Peacemaking requires faith and trust in the living God of peace, as opposed to faith and trust in the culture of war and its idols of death.

Over the last three decades, I have heard both Daniel and Philip Berrigan reflect on Psalm 115, and their words surprised and unsettled me. I expected reflections on peace, and heard instead a denunciation of the idols of war. It has taken me a long time to understand what they were teaching. They were testifying to their faith in the living God of peace, but they insisted that such faith needs boundaries. Belief in the God of peace in a culture as sick as ours requires simultaneously publicly renouncing belief in the culture’s false gods of war — the idols of nuclear weapons, Trident submarines, drones, AK-47s and other instruments of killing. In other words, as we name our faith in the God of peace, we likewise denounce the culture’s faith in the idols of war. We have to do both if we want to live in peace.

As we approach Hiroshima Day on Aug. 6, when many of us will join local anti-war, anti-nuke protests, I thought this text was worth pondering for further clarity about our stand for peace in faith and our stand against war and idolatry…

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