Last night I was driving home from my Spanish class and was stuck behind someone with one of those plastic license plate frames. On the top, it said “No Jesus, No Peace”, and along the bottom it said “Know Jesus, Know Peace”. How clever.
Anyway, I started thinking about what a total scam this was. First off, who was this self-righteous Christian telling me what to believe. I don't see a lot Muslims driving around with “Praise Allah” bumper stickers. In fact, the only fervent evangelists that I can think of are Mormans, Jehovah's Witnesses, and Fundamentalists.
The next thing that bothered me was the commodifcation of religion in some Nike-esque advertising slogan. I thought God was supposed to be some deep, incomprehensible being, not a slogan to be plastered on your bumper. Indeed, is this slogan any more meaningful than “Just Do It?”
On the surface, obviously not. There are plenty of countries and times that have been peaceful and not Christian. As far as I can tell, for instance, Native Americans were not in a continual state of bloody warfare until their decimation at the hands of Europeans. Nor were the Taoists, Hindus, Muslims, Jews, or any other religious group.
In fact, it can probably be argued (though I'm no historian, and what I do know is way too Eurocentric) that Christian societies have been some of the most warlike ever. Europe has a long history of secular wars, and also of religious violence (most noticeably the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the conquest of the Americas). Different sects of Christian have long exhibited virulent intolerance for one another. And given their superiority in methods of warfare, it is quite probable that they devoted a larger share of resources to its pursuit.
In light of the Christianity's intolerance for other religions, it seems to me that this phrase can more accurately be seen as a threat. For example, it perfectly encapsulates Columbus's relations to the Native Americans: if you don't accept Jesus, we will kill, rape, exploit, torture, enslave, and otherwise deprive you of any peace. Indeed, it is a trope of “No Justice, No Peace”, which is obviously a threat (though, to my mind, a much more acceptable one).
Of course, a good Christian would probably tell me that, no, what they meant was inner peace. And again I fail to see any correlation between Christianity and self-satisfaction. Indeed, much of the theology is based on the idea that we are all inherently evil, and only through the grace of some arrogant God can be forgiven our faults and allowed to experience something good. Why don't I feel better?
This is not to say that I think Jesus, or most Christians, are bad people. Nor are most of any other group. Just that I fail to see any meaningful correlation between Jesus and peace.
Here is a response I received:
I read you little rant. While I agree with your observation that the trite phrases some use to express their faith these days can be easily confused with a sneaker commercial I think a few of your other points are a little hastily made if not incorrect. To dispense with formalities, I am a Christian, I would not however put a No Jesus No Peace, WWJD or “My master is a carpenter” sticker on my car, for the same reason I don't wear a t-shirt saying male, heterosexual, professional. It tends to color the first impression one makes in unintended ways.
To the point though, Christianity is not unique in being associated with conquest. Then again, if you believe there is a grain of truth to the Illiad wars have been fought over adulterous affairs among other petty reasons. Islam spread by the sword, as did Judaism, what do you think happened to those tribes who lost to the Hebrews. Although Hindus are not terribly proselytic, the Indian subcontinent's history is not one unbroken golden age until the arrival of the Raj, there have been many wars both between Hindu peoples and with people's of other faiths. If you want to anger a Hindu travel to India and attempt to proselytize for any other religion: the traditional response is not to turn the other cheek. As for the far eastern religions, China's approach to religion in general tends to be more pragmatic than most other cultures. As long as a religion doesn't interfere with the government's activities it is tolerated. This practice predates the current communist regime and largely explains why there has not been a major conflict between adherents of Taoism and Confucianism (in fact a lot of Chinese are both).
Christianity is unique in the following regard though. For the first four hundred years of its existence, Christianity spread without the benefits of temporal power: no kingdoms, no swords, no guns. Then it replaced the official religion of one of the largest most organized empires the world had ever seen. Mohammed was a patriarch (in the biblical sense) and had armed men at his disposal in uniting the Arabs under his banner, Buddha was a prince (who could have been king), Confucius was a high ranking bureaucrat, as was Lao Tzu. Hinduism created a ruling caste by fiat and imposed itself upon the populace. Think about that for a minute, Christianity spread from the bottom up and is the only major religion to have done so. That shouldn't be a reason to start believing, but it is significant.
Anyway, enough history, the peace refered to on the license plate is not the cessation of all warfare and goodwill to all fellow men kind. Although the message isn't clearly made these days, the peace to which Christians refer is an inner peace: a belief that your life will be spared the consequences of your baser desires and that in following Jesus' examples and teachings you will cease to behave in a sinful manner therafter. The swords into ploughshares stuff happens after everyone does the acceptance of Jesus thing in Christianity not before. I don't know how familiar you are with the gospels of the Bible, here are a few thoughts. When faced with the question of whether Jews (of which Jesus was one) should pay taxes to the Roman emperor (who was deemed a god by the state and therefore in direct conflict with Jewish monotheism) Jesus said “Give to Caesar what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's” (Mat 22:20-22). Some take this to mean that Jesus did not seek to establish a traditional kingdom that would compete with Rome. Furthermore Jesus said “Do you think I came to bring peace on earth? No, I tell you, but division.” Lk 12:50-52. Which some say indicates that Jesus was well aware that his teachings would cause conflict and strife between people. Of course, whether Jesus ever uttered these words, or something like them is something you have to decide to believe for yourself or not.
At any rate, this is far more than I intended to say, hope it didn't totally waste your time.