Tag Archives: peace

Trump, the Pax Romana, and Palm Sunday

This Sunday, many churches around the world, including our own, will take time to remember and honour Palm Sunday: the moment when Jesus enters into Jerusalem and begins the events prior to his arrest and crucifixion.

Two particular things happen on Palm Sunday: Jesus rides a donkey colt, and a number of people wave palm branches and shout, “Hosanna!  Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.”

The symbol of riding on a donkey colt was meant to conjure up the image of a King riding into Jerusalem.  Solomon rides on a mule when he is anointed as King over all of Israel.  Zechariah also prophesies that when the long-awaited Messiah, the great King of Zion, will enter Jerusalem “riding on a donkey’s colt” (Zech. 9:9).

The addition of palm branches is interesting.  Palm branches were already a common symbol of royalty in Jewish culture at the time; but palm branches were particularly connected to when the King entered the Temple and performed a sacrifice upon the altar.

Palm Sunday is a celebration of Jesus’ triumphal entry as a King into Jerusalem and we see two things quickly emerge in this image of Jesus: 1) the donkey colt was also a symbol of humility and 2) Jesus is going to be a King performing a sacrifice.  But instead of sacrificing an animal on the altar, he sacrifices himself upon the cross to heal the world of its sins.

Now try lining up this image of King with that we see quickly emerging in our beloved Donald J. Trump.  As a leader or ruler, Trump says things like:

“We will have so much winning if I get elected that you may get bored with winning. Believe me.”

[Speaking of a protester] “I want to punch him in the face.”

“If you see somebody getting ready to throw a tomato, knock the crap out of ’em, would you? Seriously. Okay?”

“See, in the good old days this didn’t use to happen [people protesting], because they used to treat them very rough. We’ve become very weak.”

When asked about the recent assault of a protester who was subsequently manhandled by three police officers (not the man who actually assaulted him), Trump says, “He deserved it. The next time we see him, we might have to kill him. We don’t know who he is. He might be with a terrorist organization.”

Trump represents what we could call the Pax Romana or “Peace of Rome.”  Just before the birth of Christ until about 180 A.D., Rome enjoyed about a relative peace for about 200 years.  Their claim was that the civilization and military expansion of the Roman Empire had engineered this peace.

However, the Pax Romana was anything but peaceful.  The Empire engaged in widespread torture and executions in order to maintain power over oppressed cultures, and it still engaged in warfare.  It just didn’t have any major civil wars during this time or any major opponents who threatened the stability of the Empire.

But the basic concept of the Pax Romana was that physical force and violence against your enemies creates security and peace.

This is what Donald Trump believes will happen when he uses physical and verbal force against protesters.  This is also what also lead Trump to say things like: “The other thing with the terrorists is you have to take out their families, when you get these terrorists, you have to take out their families.”

This was the logic of the Pax Romana.  Use whatever physical force is necessary in order to ensure peace.

Two different leaders.  Two different concepts of “King.”  One leader advocates that because he is so rich and powerful, he will make America great again.  The other leader rides on a donkey colt to announce his arrival.

One leader says you have to sacrifice people on the altar of peace and security in order to be safe.  The other leader sacrifices himself to save the world.

This Palm Sunday let’s ask ourselves “What is truly the peace that we want for the world? And which kind of King will we ultimately follow?”

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This week Arnold Neufeldt-Fast will be speaking in our church, he is a member of Community Mennonite Church in Stouffville (and also an associate professor at Tyndale Seminary).  I was looking at their church website  this week, and found out that they are putting up a plaque commemorating their peace witness.  Since that is something our church did as well I was interested to read what they wrote. Here is the text from their plaque:

“Peace Church Settlers of Whitchurch-Stouffville”

A large number of early settlers of present day Whitchurch-Stouffville were members of the Historic Peace churches: Brethrenn in Christ (Dunkers), Mennonites, and Quakers. They were attracted to settle Upper Canada by Lt. Governor John Graves Simcoe with the offer of military exemption (1793). The peace teachings of the Christian tradition deeply shaped their faith and caused them to wrestle with what it means to be people of God’s peace, especially during times of conflict and war. As pioneers of conscientious objection in Canada, their commitment to the work of peace and reconciliation continues to stand witness in this community and around the world.”

Compare this to the text from our own plaque:
Mennonite Conscientious Objectors 1812-1814

During the War of 1812 the Mennonite congregation meeting on this site included members who followed their conscience and refused to serve in the military. Other Mennonite settlements in Niagara, Rainham, Markham and Waterloo faced the same issue at that time. As members of a historic peace church, Mennonites believe that Jesus taught and lived love of enemies, and that following his example does not allow taking up arms. In 1793 the government of Upper Canada had recognized the right of Mennonites, Quakers and Brethren in Christ to be Conscientious Objectors to war; the War of 1812 was the first testing ground of this right.

The Prince of Peace is Jesus Christ…
True Christians do not know vengeance.
They are the children of peace.
Their hearts overflow with peace.
Their mouths speak peace,
and they walk in the way of peace.   – Menno Simons, Reply to False Accusations, 1552

This week Arnold will be sharing about how their church has tried to witness to peace during this anniversary of the War of 1812.

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