Peace On Earth

Are these words written by Henry Longfellow appropriate for today?

“I heard the bells on Christmas Day their old familiar carols play, and wild and sweet their words repeat of peace on earth good will to men.

“And in despair I bowed my head: “There is no peace on earth,’ I said, “for hate is strong and mocks the song of peace on earth, good will to men.'”

September 11, made a mockery of those words. In addition to the events of that day being an attack on every American they were an affront to the one the ancient prophets said would be “The Prince of Peace.” Where is the peace spoke of by angels at the birth of Jesus Christ? Their words of “Peace on earth good will to men” reverberate with unfulfilled hope.

As with all movements disciples of the master often disgrace their master. The Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and the Pope looking the other way when Hitler and Mussolini were at work with his knowledge are examples.

The Prince of Peace promised a special blessing on the peacemaker. That is a worthy aspiration.

This season gives occasion for inspiring words of songs such as these to be heard:
“Sleep in heavenly peace…”

“Praises sing to God the King, and peace to men on earth.”

“All glory be to God on high, and to the earth be peace.”

“Pray for peace people everywhere…”

That angelic presaging of peace on earth has been misunderstood to be a prophecy of peace. It is not a prophecy of peace but a prescription for peace found in a person, the “Prince of Peace.” It is sung of in the thrilling carol, “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing:” “Peace on earth and mercy mild; God and sinners reconciled.”

It was as though by divine revelation Longfellow continued to write his verse:

“Then peals the bells more loud and deep: “God is not dead, nor does He sleep; the wrong shall fail, the right prevail, with peace on earth, good will to men.”

This peace is not contingent on an external status but an internal condition. It is a peace that passes understanding. It is based on an awareness that all things might not be OK but that you are alright. It belongs to those who have established a gratifying lifestyle and settled the issue of their eternal destiny by coming to terms with the Prince of Peace. They live in a win – win condition.

There is a dynamic spiritual thread running through all this. Many don’t think it is PC to be spiritual. Since September 11 people have become more aware of the frailty of life and finality of death. PC is brushed aside and raw reality faced. It is summed up in the expression, “I am mortal and need to consider my immortal state in time and for eternity.” Once settled then the peace that passes understanding is experienced. Peace!

Pacifism vs. War

“War is hell!” General Sherman said it well. War is abhorrent and should be avoided by all means. However, when the means run out war breaks out.

The most hellish part of war is innocent civilian casualties. When you hear them reported don’t forget to count the first 3,000 innocent civilians here in America who were given no opportunity to prepare in advance. Every one counts and no life should be considered cheap.

Various means were used to try to avoid the current conflict. Those in the know considered all means to have been exhausted. All that was left was war.

In Germany in the late 1930s Rhinehold Niebuhr was a German pastor, a pacifist. He did not like the political climate developing in his beloved Germany so he left and came to America as a devout pacifist. Soon he heard of the atrocities being committed by the Nazi’s against innocent people. He returned to Germany as a pastor. This was almost a certain death sentence. He wrote much about peace, war, and pacifism. He strongly favored pacifism. It is an admirable ideal. However, in light of what he saw and heard was happening he wrote also of evil. Truly, what was happening in Germany at the time was pure raw evil unbridled. He concluded that when evil becomes so malignant and aggressive war is the only alternative to stopping it. Reaching this conclusion led him to endorse war as a means of preventing even more death and destruction perpetuated by evil. That is exactly what America and the world is facing. Any philosophy or pseudo religion that takes 3,000 lives and costs many a livelihood is evil. A war against such evil is a preservative of life and a restorer of peace.

There are two essentials to win a war. One is a superior military strategy and weaponry. The second is the strong will of the populace to stay the course and finish the task. There is no doubt we have the former. It is up to us to consistently show we have the latter. Every time our will wavers we should envision those twin towers coming down burying nearly 7,000 innocent civilians. We should also project what the result will be if we falter and fail.

The only thing of larger caliber than our weapons must be our people.

We will win this war. In the process we likely will lose some battles. Some of those losses may be on our soil and of significant proportions. It is then the public must show its will to stay the course in order to avoid additional casualties. Keep in mind this war is being fought to save the lives of civilians like those in the towers, on the plane forced down in Pennsylvania, and in the Pentagon.

History is replete with accounts of the effectiveness of prayer in all of life. We dare not neglect it in this one phase of our national life. Pray for wisdom on behalf of the United States and its allies and for the Lord to blind the eyes of the evil ones.

News vs. Our Need To Know

Does the chief of police have to explain what he might have do to prevented it every time there is a murder?

Does a highway patrolman have to tell what action he or she might have taken to prevent a person from violating a speed limit?

When a military officer is confronted with a type of warfare never known does he have to explain what he might have done to avoid it?

When a president is faced with a terrorist plot never conceived of by healthy moral minds does he have to explain what he might have done to prevent it? Had he known he would have done anything within his power to prevent it.

What President Bush was confronted with on 9/11 had never been experienced or envisioned. How could he have done anything to prevent it when he nor any one else knew what it was in advance?

Is the President alone supposed to make ours a perfect world? Some persons are treating him as though he, not Osama, is responsible for the destruction of the World Trade Towers.

We are subjecting our president to unprecedented demands to know what he knew. There are times and things heads of state need to keep confidences. Consider the response to the following had the press of the time had the same attitude as today.

At a critical moment during World War II our allied forces broke the German secret code. This major breakthrough enabled our forces to decode and read all the enemies’ secretly coded messages regarding troop deployment, defense placement, and other information vital to our planned invasion of Europe. This gave us tremendous advantages.

One message received chilled British intelligence and was relayed to Prime Minister Sir Winston Churchill. It told of plans to bomb the beautiful British city of Coventry. This lovely old city was one of England’s crown jewels.

The Prime Minister knew that with the insight gained they could evacuate the city and prepare air defenses to give it greater protection. He also knew that if he did so the Germans would know their secret code had been broken. In order not to reveal knowledge of the secret code in hopes to interpret further messages and have greater advantages in preparing for the invasion, the Prime Minister left Coventry unwarned and unprotected.

On the night of November 24, 1940, nearly 500 German bombers bombed the historical English city of Coventry. Over 600 tons of explosives and thousands of incendiaries were dropped. Over 70,000 homes were ruined and 400 people killed. The centerpiece of the city, their magnificent 14th Century cathedral was destroyed.

What did the Prime Minister know and what might he have done to prevent it? Having to answer would have resulted in an even greater disaster on D-Day. Like Churchill our President is entitled to certain respect and confidences.

Muslim Militance

Not all Baptists are alike. Now that I have stated the mother of all understatements let me spin off that principle.

Not all Muslims are alike. There are some genuinely peaceful ones. I have a number of acquaintances in the middle east who are. Some are passive or neutral about their faith. They practice their faith and are not concerned about persons of other faiths. They tolerate different faiths. A segment is militant about their faith believing it to be the only true faith. Among these are those who believe in their faith so strongly they want to annihilate persons of other faiths. These form the nucleus of the terrorist organizations. It is for them a matter of religion.

It is a struggle as old as Abraham’s sons Isaac and Ishmael.

The Bible says Abraham was promised a son who would extend his lineage through the ages as a great race.

Sarah, his wife, was 90 years of age when Abraham was given the promise. Because her age made the likelihood of childbearing improbable she gave her handmaid, Hagar, to Abraham for her to bear the son. This was not an uncommon practice in the era. Hagar bore Ishmael.
The Bible teaches Ishmael was not the child of promise. Sarah was the one by whom the heir was to be born. At the age of 100 Sarah bore Isaac whom Scripture says was the rightful descendent through which the promise was to be kept.

The story as told in the Bible Book of Genesis (11:29 -25:10) was written around the second millennium B.C. In the Bible narrative Abraham recognized God as the Almighty Lord and Author of the covenant by which the Hebrews would become a mighty nation.

Fast forward. A young Arab named Muhammad was impressed that the Jews and Christians had a book and the Arab people didn’t. He called them “the people of the book.” Actually the Bible is intended for all people and contains wonderful promises to the Arabs, the descendants of Ishmael (Genesis 16:10 & 21:20).

Muhammad wrote what is known as the Koran, the holy book of the Muslims. Semitic scholars agree there was no evidence of the Koran until 691 A.D., 59 years after the death of Muhammad. Much of what is known of Muhammad is based on texts that were written 300 years after his death.

The version of Abraham’s descendants varies greatly in the Koran and the Bible. In the Koran Ishmael becomes the child of promise and his descendants, the Arabic people, the chosen people.

Both accounts can’t be right. For the militant Muslims this is the point to be defended. If the Bible is right the Koran contains error. Thus, the militant defense. Again I want to note not all Muslims are incited to Jihad over this issue but to some it is so vital as to merit a holy war to defend the honor of the Koran and its teachings. Osama Bin Laden is exhibit “A” of the zealous Muslims who are motivated by their religious beliefs to defend the honor of the religion by militant means against unbelief. Those persons in Iraq now decrying the presence of the Coalition Forces in Iraq are of this school of thought. Their zeal prompts them to insist on a Muslim State governed by the Koran. In Iraq there are many Muslims who are appreciative of what has been done to free them from their suppressive ruler who was himself, at least in name, a Muslim.

The holy books are the nexus of the conflict for those Muslims who are militant.


With the Olympics garnering such public attention it is natural that Mormonism will be highlighted in a very favorable manner. Recently Dr. Joe McKeever of First Baptist Church in Kenner, Louisiana wrote the following on the subject. “The January 21, 2002, issue of “The New Yorker,” carries an article on Mormonism by Lawrence Wright. This religion will be much on display in Salt Lake City in a few days, as the Winter Olympics get underway. After giving a history and some impressive data on the church’s membership and influence, Wright tackles the shaky historical foundation for this religion. That’s where his story takes off. No one disputes that in 1835, Joseph Smith–the founding bishop of Mormonism–purchased some Egyptian mummies and papyri that were touring America. Since no one could read the hieroglyphs, Smith announced that the writing on the papyri was actually “reformed Egyptian,” and proceeded to give it his own translation. According to him, these were writings from the patriarch Abraham while in Egypt, revelations that established the preexistence of the soul, declared a plurality of gods, and excluded Blacks from the priesthood. “The Book of Abraham” became one of the foundation stones of the new church. Interestingly, Smith left behind notes on this ancient language in his own handwriting–which provided historians with the smoking gun, so to speak.

After Smith died in 1844, the papyri were sold and were thought to have burned in the Chicago fire of 1871. They turned up a few years ago in the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, and were restored to the LDS church. Innocently, the leaders called in four noted experts on Egypt to examine the documents. Far from being the writings of Abraham, the papyri contained nothing more than instructions for burying the dead. There was no “Book of Abraham.”
A few church members resigned in disgust. A book in my library defending the Smith translation (the authors are Mormon) says the present papyri is not the material used in the Book of Abraham, but are merely fragments and therefore untrustworthy. “New Yorker” reporter Wright says, however, the fact that Smith left behind “a grammar” of the “Egyptian language” in his handwriting knocks down this theory.

What about this? A Mormon defender dismisses it all. “Very few scholars even believe that Abraham ever lived,” Hugh Nibley says. Amazing. The issue, of course, is not Abraham but the foundation of the Mormon church. Or more precisely, whether it has a foundation. That religion stands on the shoulders of a prophet named Smith who may have pulled one of the great cons of any century. The question is whether anyone cares. Is anyone asking the hard questions?

Robert Millet, a former dean of religious education at BYU, is quoted in the article as explaining, “Being a Mormon is really a matter of faith.”

What about Joseph Smith’s deceit? Millet directs us to check out Bible heroes such as Jacob and Abraham, who both lied and deceived. This is true. We respond, however, that being a Christian is not about the integrity of the people in the Bible, but about Jesus and the trustworthiness of our Scriptures. Being a Mormon has everything to do with the integrity of Joseph Smith. Or the lack of it. We can only hope some people who read the “New Yorker” article will be moved to ask some hard questions. And to stick around for the answers. My limited experience with members of the Mormon religion has shown that most do not like these questions, and that anyone raising them becomes labeled as an enemy of their faith. Far from being their enemy, I should like to be known as a friend of the Truth.” Joe McKeever