February 23, 2011 - Memorial of Saint Polycarp, bishop and martyr

We have just repeated in the psalm, “O Lord, great peace have they who love your law.” The psalmist is speaking of the peace which is the foundation of peace in our society: peace within ourselves. This internal peace is founded on the law of God. Until we love God above all things and our neighbors as ourselves, we cannot be at peace, and until we are at peace our society cannot be at peace. Our popular society blames fundamentalism for violence, which is to say that they blame strongly held beliefs for violence. If everyone would calm down, we are led to believe, and be willing to accept that they will not always get their way, we would have peace.

This is not true. Most of the violence in this world comes from selfishness. Behind theft, rape, nearly every murder, and all the other crimes which disturb our peace, lie a selfish motive. We concentrate on the violence that comes from those who claim to be fighting for an ideal, but that is such a minuscule part of the violence in the world. Some people speak as if the elimination of fundamentalism would lead to perfect peace, but they must be ignoring the vast majority of the crimes against peace to believe this. A popular claim by modern atheists is that the elimination of religion would mean a flowering of peace. This is false. Religion, even religions that are deficient in their understanding of the truth, are the greatest contributors to peace in this world. Most religions make a person try to be good, and no one is more peaceful than a good person.

If we could only make every person in the world be good, then we could deal with the philosophical questions like whether and when it is ever a good to use violence. There is a way to have this world peace, but we must begin with peace within ourselves, which comes only from following the law of God: love. Until we love God above all things and our neighbors as ourselves, we will not be at peace, and until we are at peace, it is sort of foolish to hope for world peace.