The sixth principle of unitary universalism is the “purpose of the world community, with peace, liberty and justice for all”. Many would say this is an absurd idea that has almost no chance of happening.
But how can you ask for less? How can we legitimately tell ourselves that simply not being at war is the same as being at peace? It’s not.
Being at peace is an action, not a state of neutrality. Peace is a platform for achievement. He does not content himself with laying down his swords, he transforms them into ploughshares.
The medieval church is often reviled as backward and power-hungry, because it was. They seemed only interested in selling the rights to the sky in order to pay for its own wealth and cathedrals large enough to contain it. Luther separated from the church exactly 500 years ago for this very reason.
But the medieval church was far more complex than its flaws. He also did some pretty groundbreaking peace work at a time when violence was the societal norm.
In the year 989, the church promulgated a doctrine called Pax Dei, or Peace of God. Followed by the Truce of God 38 years later, these two doctrines sought to calm the violence of the quarrels which had become endemic throughout Western Europe.
Peace and Truce from God used the power of spiritual sanctions, in this case not to extract money from the people, but to create pockets of peace and unity. Initially, it was enacted to protect church property, agriculture, and clergy, not surprisingly. But the result has been the insertion of peace into otherwise war-torn lands.
In the 11th and 12th centuries, villages developed in the immediate vicinity of churches to take advantage of this imposed peace.
It became a tradition that we now understand as Sanctuary. In an attempt to create pockets of peace in which the church could survive, it provided a safe haven for all who were weary of violence.
The medieval church no more invented peace than it summarily eradicated war by its actions. These continued to exist then as they do now.
But it was a peaceful grain of sand on an otherwise rocky shore. A light that shines in the dark. A light of community, safety and holiness that has become embedded in the fabric of our culture.
The relative peace we enjoy today – and let’s be clear, the horrific violence we see today has nothing to do with that of yesteryear – is the legacy, in part, of those early actions of the ancient church to create small islands of relative safety, community, and comfort upon which mankind has the opportunity to thrive unimpeded.
The Sixth Principle of a global community goal seeks nothing less.
I don’t believe that world peace is absurd, even if I don’t expect it in my lifetime. I agree that our only goal should be to create an island in the midst of suffering. To welcome to its shores all who are weary, poor, hungry and lost. Reaching out into the sea and bringing out all who need security and stability to thrive. Seek out those in need of a relationship in order to transform their trauma into healing, not only for themselves but for all who seek to build their own islands of peace.
A global community goal is not a displaced ideal, it is a path. A choice. Not only for peace to be on earth, but for it to begin with me.
When we come together as a community of faith, when we welcome into fellowship all who seek comfort and belonging, we are shaping the very nature of God. We model the very purpose of enlightened thought. To know itself. Love each other. To serve. Teach. To reinforce. Heal. To illustrate that peace on earth is not a fantasy, it is inevitable.
Wil Darcangelo, M.Div, is a Unitarian Universalist pastor at Fitchburg First Ward and Lancaster First Church. Email firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter, Instagram and TikTok @wildarcangelo. His blog, Hopeful Thinking, can be found at www.hopefulthinkingworld.blogspot.com.