Transcendence: Searching for light amidst horrors in Ukraine and Gaza

Dec 24, 2023
World peace crisis as a geopolitical conflict clash representing Global conflict and international security concept due to political dispute and finding a diplomatic agreement.

Is there any light in the Christian message in the face of the horrors in the Ukraine and Gaza? Apart from wishing peace on Earth does Christian belief actually change anything?

Well, along with Nick Cave, I don’t believe in an interventionist God. At least not a God sitting above our lives pulling the strings at whim. I do believe though in the more profound message we recall at Christmas; that God and humanity are engaged in a cosmic dance of interrelatedness. That the good we seek is prompted by the Divine and the love that motivates humanitarian effort reflects the nature of God. The degree to which human conflict can be transformed into a settled peace is the measure in which we act in accord with ‘our better angels’! In other words, the human instincts to seek goodness and justice and to repel evil reflect the instinct of God.

This is the Christian message for a troubled world. A message that carries a hope of transcendence. We do have the capability to move beyond sectarian interests, to rise above bigotry and discrimination, to overcome narrow mindedness and defensive postures and to seek harmony in the interests of a common humanity. This is not ‘pie in the sky’ naïveté. Rather it is a rational approach in the mutual interests of sustainability and prosperity. It is a pathway of collaboration and ethical behaviour. It does call out right from wrong. It does promote the quest for the good over that of evil. It does mean taking sides to ensure everyone is treated with dignity and given a fair go. It ultimately involves embracing uncertainty, even mystery, as a deliberate choice instead of remaining clueless.

At its best Christianity is a movement of compassion, not an ideology. It calls for personal and communal transformation. This doesn’t imply that Christianity has the exclusive mortgage on truth and morality. Wrongly applied it can get caught up in ‘culture wars’. Its true heart is to promote unity. Its ’value add’ is to enable a common assent to shared challenges. Its particular emphasis is to create the space for the unheard, the forgotten and the disadvantaged to take agency. It points to measures that balance the scales of opportunity and benefit to bring to effect the aspirations of dignity and respect for all.

Christianity is not isolationist. It is best conducted in solidarity with those for which it seeks to aid. The symbols, rituals and myths of the people become the poetic expressions of the deeply held truths nurtured by the Christian story. Again, the degree to which these truths can hold in the face of horror and threat is the testament to the civilising impact of Christian values. For the one tenet of the Christian faith, evidenced in the life and resurrection of Jesus, is that death, destruction can be overcome. But not without effort, perseverance, and above all, hope.

And part of the Christian ‘toolkit’ are the virtues of wisdom, prudence and courage. Not to maintain a misguided sense of being a ‘Christian bulwark’ against the ‘forces of evil’; rather as transcendental capabilities to assist communities to identify and embrace opportunities that lead to a common flourishing and sustainable futures.

Peace makers, whether they be negotiators or legislators, need an agreed foundation of human rights. The United Nations has plainly stated declarations which to a big extent resonate with Christian social thought. It is still the most viable meta narrative to adopt in times of war and international strife. This Christmas let’s pray that the inspiration to promote a common humanity be the basis for prudent and courageous international action.

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