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Development Of Peace Idea

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THE HISTORIC DEVELOPMENT

OF THE PEACE IDEA 1

PEACE is not only a fundamental doctrine of Christianity; it is equally a fundamental doctrine of humanity in its essential constitution. Hence peace, both as an idea and as a social attainment, has had a natural historic development, in which other forces than Christian teaching, or any other religious teaching, technically such, have played a powerful and incessant part. These natural forces began to act earlier, perhaps, than the religious, and though dependent on the religious for their vitalization, they seem to have acted more steadily than the latter.

The religious conception of peace as a moral demand, though in its use by religious teachers it has had a very fluctuating history, has nevertheless since the time of Christ led the whole historic development of the peace movement. It has been a sort of headmaster to the movement, giving to it now and then impulse, inspiration and direction, and stirring the natural peace forces into stronger and more effective activity. It is only as the religious and the natural phases of the movement are both taken into account that the historic development of the principle and practice of peace can be properly understood.

The ideas of peace as a matter of moral obligation and the practical application of pacific methods in social and international affairs have developed at about the same rate. The growth and extension of the idea can therefore be fairly well traced in terms of its practical application in conciliation, mediation, arbitration, and the evolution of law and order in society.

UNKNOWN TO THE ANCIENT WORLD

The idea of universal and perpetual peace, which has taken such a wide and deep hold upon the thought of recent times, was unknown to the ancient world. The controlling principle among all the ancient peoples as to peace and war was that of family or race. Within a patriarchal group, a tribe, or collection of tribes within a common race, the idea of peace as useful and even obligatory was usually considerably developed. This is the case now among the unchristianized peoples of the world. Tribes, which fight like fiends with one another, manage, in spite of their ignorance, unrestraint and animalism, to keep up within themselves a fair amount of friendship and pacific life and cooperation.

The forces, which operated among the ancient peoples in producing this measure of pacific life, were sense of kinship, contiguity of dwelling, interdependence and some realized community of interests. Beyond this sphere of race or family, war, pillage, conquests, enslavement, were considered not only permissible but also obligatory. Often the obligations of peace were felt only within very narrow limits, the tendency being, until Christianity began to operate, to reduce the feeling of obligation to the minimum of family relationship rather than to expand it to the limits of racial kinship.

The religions of the ancient peoples, growing as they did largely out of the characters of the peoples and their environments, deepened and strengthened these conceptions. The national gods were looked upon as protecting and favoring the home people, but as hostile to all others. Where strange gods were brought in and domesticated, the purpose was probably nearly always to secure the most help in war or the greatest security against hostile inroads from without. The principal use of gods was for war purposes.

THE JEWISH CONCEPTION OF PEACE

The same principle of race governed the Jewish people in the matter of peace and war. The peace for which their psalmists and prophets sighed was peace upon Israel, the peace of Jerusalem, not the peace of the world, of nation with nation. War against heathen peoples was considered not only lawful but also obligatory. Love of other peoples and rational treatment of them was scarcely dreamed of amongst the Hebrews. Love of neighbor was as far as they got, and their theory of this was much better than their practice. In their conception of God, in regard to some of his attributes, they rose, or were lifted, vastly higher than any other nation of their time. Their God, the one true and living God, was the creator of all nations and peoples, as well as of the heavens and of the earth. But it is curious that this conception of God never led them to see and feel the real kinship and oneness of humanity, as one might expect it would have done. They drew from it rather the selfish notion of great superiority over other peoples. They believed that this God, their God, meant them to bring all other nations under their sway, and that the Messiah whom he was to send would do this service for them. Not even their greatest prophets were able wholly to divest themselves of the racial narrowness of view. They now and then, as in the case of Isaiah, Micah, Ezekiel, Zechariah, had glimpses of the larger peace of the world, but its true nature and method of attainment they failed to grasp. It was to come by their God rebuking the other nations and causing them to flow to the mountain of the Lord, the house of the God of Jacob. It was in the holy mountain of Israel that the lamb and the lion were to lie down together, and the cow and the bear to feed in friendship. The larger meaning, which we see in the prophetic peace passages, was in them, but it was not the prophets themselves who put it there, or who even understood that it was there. It was not until Jesus Christ had unfolded the idea of the universal brotherhood of men as the corollary of the Fatherhood of God that any Jew was able to see "the middle wall of partition" broken down and to comprehend the true basis of a universal peace founded on the equal rights of all men and all nations.

AMONG THE GREEKS AND ROMANS

The nearest approach to modern peace conceptions, outside of two or three of the Jewish prophets and rabbis, was found among the Greek philosophers and poets. There was something of this nature in both Confucius and Buddha, but it is doubtful if the "universal benevolence" of the one or the "fraternity of humanity" of the other went beyond the great races to which they belonged. Their teachings certainly had no social effect in the relations of these peoples to others. Pride of race and contempt of other peoples have not been deeper anywhere else than in India and China. The reputed peaceful character of the Chinese, among whom the soldier has held a place very inferior to that of the scholar, has been due in part to sluggishness and immobility, and not largely to active love and benevolence, or even to pacific instincts.

Greece, though a small country, came into close touch with a number of nations.

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