Recently, in doing some research into the history of the Disciples of Christ in Louisiana, I ran across this entry in the minutes of Beulah Baptist Church of Cheneyville, Louisiana:
Saturday before the first Lord’s day in May 1862.
The church met after prayer and praise by the pastor. It was resolved. That whereas General G. G. Beauregard of Louisiana has made a call on the planters of the Mississippi valley to give their bells to be cast into cannon (sic.) for the confederate service. That the bell belonging to this church was in accordance to the case shipped to New Orleans, subject to the order of Gov. T. O. Moore on the 29th of March last. No motion adjourned.
H. B. Ferguson, Clk.
Does it not ring strange in our ears that a bell that once called people to worship God would now be used to kill people?
The prophets offered a grand vision of the time when war would be no more:
He shall judge between the nations,
and shall arbitrate for many peoples;
they shall beat their swords into plowshares,
and their spears into pruning hooks;
nation shall not lift up sword against nation,
neither shall they learn war any more. (Isa 2:4; repeated Mic 4:3)
The powerful images of weapons being melted down and turned into agricultural equipment is quite motivational. The move from killing people to feeding them speaks loudly to our times.
This motif was subverted by the prophet Joel in his attempt to arouse his people to their current reality:
Beat your plowshares into swords,
and your pruning hooks into spears;
let the weakling say, “I am a warrior.” (Joel 3:10)
However, the burden of Joel was that building up a military arsenal would make no difference since the foreign army they were to face was God’s army.
When we come to God’s call on the church today, there is no doubt that God has called us, the church, to to beat our swords into plowshares and ours spears into pruning hooks, that is, God has called us not to kill people but to call them into the peaceable kingdom.
It just doesn’t ring true, does it? That the church would in any way participate in the killing of others when her mandate is the salvation of all people.