Jimmy’s Table PodcastCuriously evangelical. Politically homeless. A dreamer of small things. On this podcast, I am having conversations about the intersection of faith, life, and culture.

A Time Without War – Episode #144

War - Game of Thrones

Has there ever been a time in human history that there wasn’t a war?

According to some historians, in human recorded history there’s only been 268 years in which there were no wars anywhere on the globe.

Some dispute this, because exactly how you define what constitutes a “war” differs among historians.

But whatever the case, I find it inspiring that however you define war, there’s at least been some rare instances in known human history where there was either no war altogether, or at least, maybe only some mild fighting.

However, in saying this is inspiring, it’s also kinda depressing to think that in the thousands of years of recorded human history, historians have MAYBE only been able to find 268 years in which there is no war. Such is a pretty grim statistic. Such gives the impression that war seems to almost be an inevitability in a “civilized world.”

Which of course, is ironic, because being “civilized” seems to be the opposite of what it means to make war. War making seems much more “barbaric” in its essence. We typically think it’s only the scoundrels of the Earth that only wage war! Yet arguably, it’s because of our ability organize ourselves into civil societies that ultimately makes war possible.

For “civilization” as we know it is fundamentally about people with shared dreams, goals, aspirations, beliefs, and values gathering together to organize themselves into a larger groups so that they can better interact with each other. And all organized society ultimately consists of political dynamics centered around how “power” is ultimately to be used by that group.

Of course, this immediately puts people outside this organized group at odds with one another at some level. And should the tensions and dynamics of those groups escalate enough, and they enter into disputes and conflicts, they may inevitably find themselves at war with one another.

And, these wars are only possible because people are willing to take up arms in an organized fashion, or give power to others who are willing to fight on their behalf. For all the justifications that may be invoked for the reasons for one society to make war with another society, all war ultimately involves a fight over power, and the ability of one society to bend the will of another society with that power.

Even the war in Ukraine against Russia is fundamentally about the dynamics of power. Yes, it’s certainly true that there’s a sense of good vs. evil in this war. Vladimir Putin is clearly an evil dictator using the might of his country to try and take over a very vulnerable country. Without a doubt, this is evil.

But while it’s true that the war between Ukraine and Russia is very much a a battle of good vs. evil, I find such a bit too simplistic, and doesn’t really help us think about what war actually is. This war is ultimately a fundamental fight over the dynamics of power, as all war is ultimately about the power of one group being exercised over another, and whether or not they are going to allow that to happen.

All war is ultimately a fight over who has power over whom.

In this instance the war in Ukraine against Russia is about the power of the Ukrainian people to democratically elect their own leaders and to govern themselves, or to concede their power (and with it possibly their freedoms and their lives) to that of a tyrant who thinks all power should centralized around him, and that he has the power to take over another territory and make it subject to him simply as an exercise of his will.

So, where am I going with this analysis?

I ultimately want to impress upon your minds an image of hope. I know it doesn’t seem like I’ve said too much that is hopefully thus far. Everything I’ve said thus far seems a bit bleak. But, sometimes you need to look into the darkness to see the twinkling of lights. And, as someone who has spent a bit of time looking into the darkness, I am alive with hope.

And, that is a hope of a world without war.

For our world has arguably never known such a world, or at best, for a fleeting moment of two. And, while the world might be a much more peaceful place over the last few decades, especially when compared to prior centuries, as we can see with the war between Ukraine and Russia, that peace is extremely fragile.

War might be less common than it was in years gone by. But the possibility that this war, or the next war, could escalate into a possible global war in which humanity quickly melts the atmosphere by nuclear means… this is a danger we always remain perpetually on the brink of because of the thirst for power our civilized societies have.

So where is the hope? Because all of this sounds rather ominous.

I find this hope in a famous vision from the prophet Isaiah, who once saw a vision in which the world was finally at peace.

In Isaiah 2:1-4, Isaiah sees the kingdom of God being established, and men no longer needing to clamor and fight over power. Isaiah sees a world in which men beat their swords into plowshares and spears into pruning hooks. To take the weapons of their warfare, and to turn them instruments only fit for gardening.

How do we get from where we are in this world to the world that Isaiah sees?

That path isn’t one-hundred percent clear. But what is clear from the vision of Isaiah is that we won’t get there without hope. And we won’t get there without having this vision deeply imprinted on our hearts and minds. It’s a prophetic vision we need to learn to see for ourselves, and to see it as clearly as Isaiah saw it.

For without that vision being burned into the core of who we are, we’ll just continue to be one civilized society clamoring for power against another civilized society, always fighting in wars of good vs. evil.

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